The German chancellor has pledged to "not let Ireland down" during the Brexit talks as the deadline for a breakthrough — set by Boris Johnson — draws closer. Paris warned that "no deal" was a very real and likely option.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to not let Ireland down on Tuesday as part of any Brexit trade deal, while adding that EU member states are keen to come to an agreement with their British counterparts.
"We want an agreement: from the Irish point of view in particular it is extremely important," Merkel said. "We won't let Ireland down but will continue to stick together in these exit negotiations," she added.
"But we have to bear in mind the realities because an agreement has to be in the interests of both sides, in the British interest and in the interest of the EU's 27 member states."
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has previously described a no-deal scenario as "irresponsible" particularly during a global pandemic.
On Tuesday, his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian said that time for UK "tactics" was over.
"As things currently stand, the hypothesis of a 'no deal' is a very real one, and also one that is unfortunately very likely today" France's foreign minister told the foreign affairs committee of the French parliament.
"We have finished playing games, we have reached the due date," Le Drian added, noting that the "everything should be played out" by mid-November.
"We are prepared for all eventualities," he told lawmakers.
Meanwhile, the EU said on Tuesday that Brexit negotiations could drag on for weeks, into November, as Britain's self-imposed deadline for a deal was about to expire.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson claims that Britain will walk away if an agreement is not within reach by Thursday.
But the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told European ministers in Luxembourg that Britain had still not done enough to soothe the bloc's concerns.
EU diplomats believe the UK is trying to gain an unfair advantage by asking for a zero-quota, zero-tariff deal.
Germany's minister for European affairs, Michael Roth, warned that "time is running out" for an agreement to be reached.
"That's why we expect substantial progress by our friends in the United Kingdom in key areas," he said.
Privately, German diplomatic sources admit that a group of eight coastal states, led by France, will need to back down on seeking the same level of access to British fishing waters.
"Everybody should know that a no deal scenario is the worst case not just for the European Union, but also for the United Kingdom," Roth said.
The UK wants to negotiate fishing stocks on an annual basis in the same way that Norway does.
Britain left the EU on January 31, but it is currently following all EU single market and customs rules as if it was still a member as part of an 11-month transition period to allow businesses to adapt.
Read more: Is the UK turning into a rogue state?
If there is no free trade agreement struck, then the UK and EU will have to fall back on World Trade Organization rules to manage their economic ties, leading to fresh tariffs being slapped on goods.
jf,jsi,dj/dr (AFP, Reuters)