Talk of no-deal Brexit is 'a negotiating position' - Irish minister

BERLIN (Reuters) - Talk of Britain leaving the European Union without an exit deal is more a negotiating position than a reality as such a scenario would benefit neither side, Ireland’s foreign minister told Reuters on Tuesday.

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With just seven months to go until it leaves the EU on March 29, Britain has yet to reach an agreement with the bloc on the terms of its departure. British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for a “business-friendly” deal has failed to impress negotiators in Brussels and has been heavily criticised at home.

Earlier on Tuesday, Sky News reported that May had said that failing to secure a deal with the EU before Britain leaves the bloc next year “wouldn’t be the end of the world”.

But Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told Reuters: “I think the chances of a no-deal Brexit are very slim.”

“I think talk of being able to survive or manage a no-deal Brexit is more a negotiating position than it is reality,” he added in an interview. “Nobody benefits from a ‘no-deal’ Brexit and we all have a responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said earlier this month a deal with Britain was needed “not much later” than in early November and that the bloc was not working towards a “no-deal” Brexit, though it had to prepare for it.

“I think it is possible to get a deal well in advance of the end of the year,” Coveney said.

Turning to migration policy, another big issue vexing the EU, Coveney called for “action and practical measures” and said all member states needed to make a contribution.

The EU has sought a common migration policy since 2015, when more than a million refugees, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, entered the bloc, putting a heavy burden on countries like Greece and Italy at the edge of Schengen.

The Czech Republic and other central European countries like Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have long opposed a Brussels-prescribed quota system to re-distribute asylum seekers.

The idea was officially dropped at an EU summit in June, replaced with agreements to share out refugees on a voluntary basis and other measures to deal with asylum requests.

“Countries that are willing to take migrants and refugees in order to share the burden with countries that are bordering the Mediterranean should be encouraged to do that,” Coveney said.

“And countries that refuse to actually take migrants, I believe should be made to actually make significant financial contributions to helping the EU response towards the overall migration crisis.”

Writing by Paul Carrel