The European Union's Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier has called a meeting of fisheries ministers from eight coastal states, including Ireland, for tomorrow, RTÉ News understands.

The meeting comes at a critical stage in the EU-UK future relationship negotiations.

The meeting will be held by video conference.

Fisheries remains one of three most difficult issues in the negotiations, according to officials.

It comes as talks on the final outstanding issues toward reaching a post-Brexit EU-UK trade deal were described by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney as "very, very difficult".

The issues which remain to be resolved are those around governance, level playing field, and fisheries.

"The outstanding issues around fair competition and fisheries, and indeed governance in relation to the level-playing-field issue, are proving very, very difficult issues to make progress on, if the truth be told", Mr Coveney said.

But the incentive to get a deal was also "very, very strong" given how enormously disruptive the lapsing of Britain EU transition period without a deal would be, he added.


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Meanwhile, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said he is concerned that a "significant number" of agri-food companies are not prepared for Brexit and he has urged "urgent action" from businesses.

Mr McConalogue was commenting after his Department met stakeholders in the sector this week as part of its consultative process on Brexit.

Mr McConalogue said that businesses need to take steps to ensure they can continue to trade with the UK after 1 January.

Elsewhere, British businesses are rushing to stockpile goods just five weeks before post-Brexit customs checks come into force on 1 January, driving up the cost of cross-border deliveries and cutting capacity, industry sources said.

Logistics companies say they have seen a surge in demand to bring goods into the country before any potential disruption in January.

Customs agents report being overwhelmed by pleas for help from traders navigating new rules for the first time.

"We have told our customers that the best thing you can do now is stock up, stockpile, and they're bringing in as much as they can," Jon Swallow, director of Jordon Freight, told Reuters of the changing dynamic in the last two weeks.

"The consequence of that is there's simply not enough capacity and the prices are going through the roof."

Mr Swallow said the increased demand had pushed prices up by around 20% in recent weeks and would likely rise further in December.

Fellow freight specialist Tony Shally said his Espace Europe had seen the cost of journeys between Poland and England, and France and England, rise by more than 10%.

Additional reporting: Fran McNulty