Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said there will be no winners or losers in the final stages of the EU UK trade negotiations.
Speaking in Brussels, Mr Martin said it was positive that both sets of negotiators would keep talking, despite an inconclusive meeting between the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels last night.
Mr Martin said both sides should approach the talks in the context of what was the right thing for citizens.
“There can be no winners or losers in these negotiations from now on. There has to be a common purpose in terms of getting a deal over the line, because it makes sense to get a trading deal,” Mr Martin said.
“I didn’t expect a breakthrough last evening. I think the fact that they met for quite a lengthy period of time and had that frank exchange of views is a good thing, and the fact that negotiators are mandated to go back in again and try and break the logjam is positive. Dialogue is key.”
Mr Martin added: “The key to unlocking this is to stand back and look at the overall picture here. Ninety seven percent of this is agreed. Are we saying we’re going to lose out on a deal because of the three percent, notwithstanding the significance of the issue?
“The bottom line is, a hell of a lot of work has been done, a lot of agreement has been reached on quite a lot of this. In my view one final effort is required here. There will obviously be a need for compromise.”
Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the European Union is reasonable in insisting on free and fair competition and the protection of the EU single market after Britain leaves the Bloc.
EU and UK negotiators will begin a final push to salvage chances of a post-Brexit trade deal after Downing Street warned the gaps between the two sides remain “very large”.
Mr Coveney said the EU signed up to a level playing field last year, but now due to “some perceptions around sovereignty and independence, that seems to be off the table”, he said.
He said the EU is not questioning British sovereignty, and the EU’s position has been consistent throughout – that it wants “the closest possible relationship with the UK, and free and fair trade.”
He said it is “not an unreasonable ask” for free and fair trade, and the protection of the EU single market.
Meanwhile Britain’s Foreign Secretary said there was still scope to strike a trade deal but significant differences remain and real progress needs to be made to keep talking beyond the new deadline of Sunday.
Speaking to the BBC, Dominic Raab said that while he could not rule out a further extension in the talks process, it was important to have “finality”.
He said: “I think it’s unlikely but I can’t categorically exclude it.
“It depends on the progress made between now and then.”
Last night, Mr Johnson and Ms Von der Leyen held crunch talks over dinner in Brussels aimed at breaking the deadlock, yet key differences prevail.
The leaders agreed to make a “firm decision” about the future of the talks by the end of the weekend, and asked their chief negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier to reconvene in the city today.
However in a statement following three hours of dinner and discussions in Brussels, a senior Number 10 source said it was “unclear” whether the differences between the two sides could be bridged.
The source said that Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen had a “frank discussion about the significant obstacles which remain in the negotiations.
“Very large gaps remain between the two sides and it is still unclear whether these can be bridged”.
The source added that the pair have agreed “to further discussions over the next few days between their negotiating teams” and that Mr Johnson “does not want to leave any route to a possible deal untested” and they “agreed that by Sunday a firm decision should be taken about the future of the talks.”
A Downing Street spokesman added that “any agreement must respect the independence and sovereignty of the UK”.
Ms von der Leyen said the negotiating teams should “immediately reconvene” to try to resolve the “essential issues” but stressed the positions remained “far apart”.
Ireland’s European Commissioner Mairead McGuinness said she believed “there is a deal to be done” with Britain in trade talks in the coming days but that it was impossible to predict if negotiations would be successful.
“I hope that we all get a Christmas present over the weekend. An early one. And that there is a trade agreement, because I think from all our sides … that would be the best possible outcome,” the Commissioner for Financial Services said.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Ms McGuinness said the “one glimmer of hope” in last night’s meeting was that Ms von der Leyen said “each side gained a clear understanding of each other’s position.”
She said “there will be renewed effort to negotiate and bridge what are significant gaps” adding that the meeting clarified “where the “fault lines are”.
It was hoped that progress at a political level between Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen could pave the way for more talks between Mr Frost and Mr Barnier.
The statements from both sides suggested that while further discussions would be held, substantial movement on the key issues had not been made.
Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen discussed the potential trade deal over a three-course dinner featuring scallops and turbot.
Negotiations have faltered on fishing rights, among other issues, and the Commission’s menu will be seen as a pointed gesture by some but a sign that it has a sense of humour by others.
Other outstanding differences include the “level playing field” measures aimed at preventing the UK undercutting the EU on standards and state subsidies, and the way that any deal would be governed.
Before leaving London, Mr Johnson told MPs that no prime minister could accept the demands the EU is making, though insisted a trade deal was still possible.
Their meeting came ahead of a European Council summit today where Ms von der Leyen is expected to debrief the leaders of the 27 member countries on the state of play with the negotiations.
Just three weeks remain until the current transitional arrangements expire.
Failure to reach agreement would see tariffs imposed on UK exports to the EU, the country’s biggest trading partner, and could also increase bureaucracy.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has suggested that a no-deal outcome could wipe 2% off gross domestic product, a measure of the size of the economy, in 2021.
Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey has warned the long-term damage caused by a no-deal situation would be worse than the economic hit from coronavirus.