EU ministers thrash out negotiating mandate
Ministers from the remaining 27 member states are meeting to approve the bloc’s mandate for negotiations with the UK over future trade.
Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok warned of the “immense” time pressure facing both sides as they attempt to agree a future trading relationship.
“The past has shown that we managed to do good work as a united European Union with regard to the Withdrawal Agreement, so that gives me hope for the negotiations to come,” he told reporters at the meeting.
“But the time pressure is immense, the interests are huge – it’s a very complicated treaty – so it will be very hard work. A tough road ahead.”
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, said the EU was making a “generous and fair” offer to the UK, but warned Mr Johnson not to renege on the commitments made in the Withdrawal Agreement.
He said: “Michel Barnier and the Irish Government are at one on this: the Withdrawal Agreement involves significant commitments in the context of Northern Ireland through the Irish protocol that both the EU and the UK need to follow through on.
“If that doesn’t happen, then I think it will damage significantly the prospects of being able to get even a bare-bones trade agreement along with a number of other things that need to be done in place by the end of the year.”
Croatia’s European Affairs minister, Andreja Metelko-Zgombic, said the EU would be willing to offer a “substantial” and “ambitious” partnership in post-Brexit trade talks with the UK.
“Today’s General Affairs Council will adopt a mandate for the future relationship with the UK – and from our side we are really willing to offer a substantial, ambitious, balanced and wide-ranging partnership,” she said