The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that a viable solution to the Irish border problem must be found to avoid the risk that talks will fail.
French politician Michel Barnier said there is a need for a "clear and operational solution for Ireland" to be included in the Brexit deal at a press conference during his visit to Ireland today.
An enjoyable, engaging and enlightening day today in Dundalk and Newry. Thank you to all I met. Public debate & dialogue is essential in #Brexit negotiations. Looking forward to visiting Derry-Londonderry & Dungannon tomorrow! #AllislandCivicDialogue @Inter_Trade Ireland pic.twitter.com/iA6qa9UhY7— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) April 30, 2018
The chief negotiator has warned that until an agreement on the Irish border is reached, and if the UK does not soften its red line on the issue, "there is a risk" that talks will fail.
He added that the Republic of Ireland has the full support of all EU member states and all EU institutions.
Barnier wants Britain and the EU to reach an agreement on the Irish border by June, ahead of a hopeful October transitional deal date.
At the press conference, taking place 8km from the border in question, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar denied Ireland and the EU were attempting a land grab.
"There is absolutely no question of Ireland or the European Union being interested in a land grab from Northern Ireland. That is not our agenda, whatsoever. We are totally committed to the Good Friday Agreement," Varadkar told the press.
Just arrived Dundalk IT for today’s Civic Dialogue. EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier arrives shortly. Important day ahead. pic.twitter.com/5JqMTic9EH— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) April 30, 2018
Varadkar agreed with Barnier, warning that Britain's "approach to negotiations will need to change in some way" if there is to be agreement over the issue reached.
Barnier concluded that he was “not optimistic” and “not pessimistic” but “determined” that the two sides can break the current impasse on talks.
Michel Barnier also dropped major hints about how progress on Ireland could be unlocked:— Adam Fleming (@adamfleming) April 30, 2018
1) recognition from the UK that Northern Ireland solution is unique
2) specific proposals from the UK on regulatory alignment with emphasis on safety of consumers, business etc
Agree w/ @MichelBarnier on need to move quickly in discussions + importance of a workable backstop. Our solutions must respect the EU single market and the integrity of the UK. We've put forward proposals on the future and look forward to making progress this week #brexit— David Davis (@DavidDavisMP) April 30, 2018