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Ireland's Coveney says Brexit breakthrough difficult in next 24 hours

FILE PHOTO: Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney and his German counterpart Heiko Maas attend a news conference in Berlin, Germany, December 11, 2020. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/Pool

DUBLIN (Reuters) - It will be hard to reach a Brexit trade deal in the next 24 hours and the whole negotiation could collapse over an impasse between the two sides on fishing rights, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was quoted as saying.

With less than two weeks before Britain leaves the EU’s orbit, both sides are calling on the other to move to achieve a breakthrough and safeguard almost a trillion dollars worth of trade from tariffs and quotas.

The talks are largely hamstrung over two issues - the bloc’s fishing rights in British waters and creating a so-called level playing field providing fair competition rules for both sides.

“I don’t see this being agreed easily in the next 24 hours. We may see a standoff over fish,” Coveney was quoted as saying by the Sunday Times newspaper.

“It won’t surprise me if this issue collapses the whole negotiation. It certainly has the capacity to do it.”

Coveney added that he found it difficult to see the EU fishing states of Ireland, France, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands supporting an agreement that goes beyond the offer that is currently on the table.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Grant McCool