Rebuilding trust is key to breaking the deadlock in EU-UK talks over a post-Brexit trade deal, Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told Euronews.
As discussions on a future relationship remain on a knife-edge, neither side is willing to give ground on crucial sticking points for fear of "one side getting an advantage over the other", according to Martin.
“I think underlying all this is the necessity for trust, and to rebuild trust between the European Union and the United Kingdom," he told Euronews. “I believe that the UK internal markets bill did erode trust."
The UK Internal Market Bill – if fully applied – would break international law and part of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement that was designed to preserve the Good Friday peace agreement.
The EU says the offending legislation must be withdrawn before it’ll sign off on any new deal.
Yet time is running out to agree on a post-Brexit relationship and get it ratified by individual parliaments by the end of the year.
But the Taoiseach - equivalent of a prime minister - says there are ways around the ratification timeline and that the priority is to get an agreement.
“Well, sometimes you can get a good result in extra time,” he said. “Our immediate focus, obviously, is in trying to make sure that the EU and the UK can arrive at a deal.
“Europe has it within its capacity to develop proper ratification procedures. It is time to acknowledge that, as time is running out. But I do believe that with some degree of creativity, we can facilitate the ratification of a deal, perhaps on a staged basis."
More than 95% of the deal is complete. However, the outstanding areas such as fisheries, level playing field and governance continue to be difficult to resolve.
The EU lead negotiator Michel Barner has long complained the UK side has refused to engage on the fisheries issue for several months.
But the Taoiseach says it’s now or never.
“Fisheries - the sides are very far apart, and it seems to me that a move has to be made to try and deal with the issue over the coming week.
“On level playing field. I think we do all realise the fears on both sides in terms of one getting an advantage over the other in relation to the application of state aid and so forth.
“But I do believe there is a landing zone on the level playing field that then leads into a dispute resolution mechanism that would enable both sides to react if one was undermining the agreement and in breach of the agreement.
“I think underlying all this is the necessity for trust and to rebuild trust between the European Union and the United Kingdom.”
“Brexit has the danger still, and the capacity to heighten tensions within Northern Ireland.
“That was my greatest fear when it happened. I mean, a majority of people within Northern Ireland voted against Brexit and to remain within the European Union. And a significant majority of citizens within Northern Ireland want to avail of the benefits of the European Union.”