EC President to make statement on Brexit

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is due to make a statement on Brexit shortly.

It will reference the UK’s Internal Market Bill, which breaches the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The statement comes as Taoiseach Micheál Martin joins other EU leaders for a two-day summit in Brussels today, which will be dominated by the EU’s relations with Turkey and Europe’s response to the crackdown against demonstrators in Belarus protesting against the recent election result.

Mr Martin will address the summit tomorrow on the impact of the Brexit negotiations on Ireland, including the controversy over Internal Market Bill.

Over dinner tonight, leaders will discuss the strategic relationship with Turkey in light of Turkish incursions into Greek and Cypriot waters in connection with recently discovered natural gas fields.

Cyprus wants the EU to take a much tougher stance against Turkey, and that issue is holding up an overall EU response to the repression in Belarus.  

The EU has been unable to agree sanctions against senior figures in the Alexander Lukashenko regime because Cyprus wants what it calls solidarity from other EU capitals on Turkey first.

Leaders will also discuss the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the recent EU-China summit.

Tomorrow, Ms von der Leyen will provide leaders with a brief state of play on the Brexit trade negotiations, which are in the final scheduled round of talks in Brussels this week.

A senior EU official said that because Ireland was the country most impacted by Brexit, the Taoiseach would be given the floor to address fellow leaders. 

It is understood Mr Martin will set out his thoughts on the prospect of a deal in the coming weeks, and the impact of the Bill, which, if it becomes law, will override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he expects Britain and the European Union to clinch a tariff-free and quota-free trade deal, in an interview published by online news site The Currency.

“I still think there will be a deal. It will be no quotas, no tariffs, some form of minimum standards and control on state aid and fishing,” Mr Varadkar was quoted as saying.

“I think that is still achievable.”

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