Ireland’s EU Commissioner, Mairéad McGuinness said there was a “glimmer of hope” that a deal on Brexit could still be done following a crunch meeting between EU and British political leaders in Brussels on Wednesday but believed talks would “go to the wire”.
Ms McGuinness, the EU’s Commissioner for Financial Stability, said the fact that the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stated following her meeting with British prime minister, Boris Johnson that both sides had a clear understanding of each other’s position, despite being far apart on key issues, helped to clarify the “fault lines”.
Speaking on RTÉ radio, Ms McGuinness said the instruction to ask negotiators to immediately resume talks about a possible deal represented “a glimmer of hope”.
“I think there will be a renewed effort by the negotiators to try and bridge what are very significant gaps,” said Ms McGuinness.
However, she accepted that both sides were no more certain there would be a conclusion to a possible Brexit deal following the meeting.
She said the Commission never had great expectations that Wednesday’s talks would deliver a breakthrough but said the outcome was better that a statement suggesting there would be no deal.
Ms McGuinness said the issue of standards remains the biggest issue between the two parties and was “becoming quite emotive on the UK side” by suggesting they were being forced by the EU to stick with EU rules.
However, Ms McGuinness said on practical a level she expected British farms exporting to the EU would want to meet those standards to ensure continued access to such markets.
“If you take some of the heat out of this discussion and look at the practical implications for businesses and individuals, I think on balance a deal and an agreement is must more important particularly in the eleventh hour,” she added.
Ms McGuinness said she did not believe the EU and the UK were engaging in a “blame game” although she acknowledged that could still happen.
Welcoming the UK’s reversal of its stance on the withdrawal agreement as an international treaty which it would honour, Ms McGuinness said it could help in creating a mood towards a trade agreement.