Theresa May insists good trade deal with EU likely post-Brexit

Taoiseach plays down fears that hardening of positions will make agreement impossible

British Prime Minister Theresa May confirms that she intends to trigger article 50 at the end of March. Video: EU Commission

 

Theresa May has said she is confident of agreeing a satisfactory trade agreement with the European Union after Brexit, despite a growing chorus of Conservatives warning that the forthcoming negotiations are likely to end with no deal at all.

Speaking in Brussels at the final EU summit before she triggers article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the prime minister said agreeing a good deal was in the interest of both sides.

  “When we come to look at those negotiations, I think that what people will see is that the relationship between the UK and the EU in the future matters not just to the UK. It’s what’s good for the EU as well, and I believe that a good free trade arrangement between the UK and the European Union is in the interests of both sides,” she said.

  The Taoiseach and the British prime minister met in the margins of the summit on Thursday night to discuss the efforts to find agreement between the parties in Northern Ireland to form a new Executive.

    As Ms May confirmed that she will trigger the start of formal exit talks before the end of March, the Taoiseach played down fears that a hardening of positions on both sides ahead of the start of formal Brexit negotiations could make an agreement between Britain and the EU impossible. But he made clear that Britain could not avoid making a significant exit payment to cover the cost of commitments made during its membership.

  “When you sign on for a contract you commit yourself to participation. That, no more than any other problem, will have to be faced, it will have to be dealt with and it will be dealt with. And obviously the extent of that level of money will be determined,” he said.

Disorderly Brexit

  Earlier, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin addressed a meeting of Liberal leaders, heads of government and European commissioners about the challenges Brexit poses for Ireland. Afterwards, he said the Government needed to make contingency plans for a disorderly Brexit that could see Britain crashing out of the EU without any deal.

  “One gets the sense that the Brexiteers within the British political establishment are very anxious to find someone to blame if this all goes south and that therefore there may be a motivation among some Brexiteers to have discussions break up earlier so they can blame it on an unreasonable EU,” he told The Irish Times.

  “There’s  a risk that this chaotic break-up could occur through no fault of our own and due to the fact that there are forces in Britain who are pushing and pushing for a quick Brexit and a hard Brexit.”

 The Taoiseach said he would use his visit to Washington next week to stress to President Donald Trump the importance of the European Union to the United States as well as Ireland after Brexit. He said the EU’s purpose remained as firm as before Britain decided to leave.

  “I have the opportunity next week to discuss with the American administration the relationship and the contribution made by Ireland to the United States over 200 years but also to discuss the implications and an understanding of what it is that the European Union actually does and what it can do in terms of its potential for jobs and opportunities and careers with the US administration,” he said.

  Massachusetts congressman Richard Neal, co-chairman of the Congressional Friends of Ireland, this week called on Mr Trump to appoint a special envoy to Northern Ireland, to help ensure that the impact of Brexit did not undermine the peace settlement.