The Irish and Spanish foreign ministers on Wednesday played down talk of a Brexit no-deal after both Britain and the EU vowed to step up preparations for the possibility of no such agreement emerging.
Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Wednesday there was “too much talk” about the possibility of Britain leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement next March.
In London for talks about the political deadlock in Northern Ireland, he conceded such a no-deal scenario would be “very bad news” for both Britain and Ireland.
“There’s probably too much talk of the negative consequences of a no-deal Brexit,” Coveney told reporters.
“I think a lot of people are talking up inappropriately the possibility. I don’t believe it’s likely, I don’t think anyone wants it.”
He added: “Clearly for Ireland, a no-deal Brexit is very bad news, clearly for Britain, a no-deal Brexit is a very bad news too.”
Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell also indicated that he thought talk of Britain crashing out without an agreement was premature.
“It seems to be impossible to imagine that the European Union and the United Kingdom come one day and say ‘it’s a brutal divorce, everyone takes what they can’. We would all lose too much,” Borrell, a former president of the European Parliament, said.
“What is not impossible is that the deadline arrives and that there is a unanimous agreement between all EU countries to delay the date. But it will be necessary to reach an agreement,” he added.
Britain is set to leave the EU on March 29th next year.
The two sides want to strike a withdrawal agreement including the outline of their future relationship by late October, to allow time for it to be ratified by their parliaments.
Coveney said no deal “would be a failure of politics on a very significant scale” and he does not “intend to let that happen”.
He said the focus should be on finding solutions, not taking a “tough stance”.
“Saying ‘do your worst, we can deal with a no-deal Brexit situation’ isn’t going to solve this problem,” he said.
The negotiations on the withdrawal agreement have been stalled in recent months on how to avoid border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of Britain.
Britain wants to forge its own trade policy independent of the EU, but many experts question how this can be done without a “hard” border in Ireland, the only land frontier between Britain and the bloc.
“What’s going to solve this problem is trying to accommodate Britain in terms of its asks where possible while understanding that the EU needs to protect its interests and the interests of its member states,” Coveney said.
He held talks with British ministers on how to restore devolved government in Belfast, which has been suspended for more than a year amid a row between the power-sharing parties.