EU's chief Brexit negotiator calls for agreement on Irish border

EU's chief Brexit negotiator calls for agreement on Irish border

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier has denied claims he has been "aggressive" towards Northern Ireland unionists, saying his door was "always open".

"We have to acknowledge that the continued absence of functioning political institutions in Northern Ireland is, at least partly, a outcome of concerns about, and different positions on, Brexit".

In an attempt to keep the pressure on the British to come up with other concrete proposals, Barnier, Varadkar and Coveney displayed a unified line of offence here near the Border.

However, it is understood that such protocols have been relaxed in north-south relations over time, but that the government still considers that it is up to Dublin to inform Northern Ireland elected representatives if an Irish minister is visiting their constituency.

Mr Varadkar acknowledged some unionists were anxious that Brexit could be used to undermine Northern Ireland's union with Britain.

"I just want to be a good neighbour and I received a very warm welcome in Northern Ireland", he said.

Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, warned that Britain's "approach to negotiations will need to change in some way" if there is to be agreement over the issue.

Guinness said the meeting provided a welcome "opportunity to meet with the leader of our closest trading partner who is one of the leading figures in the Brexit negotiations". Still, he's confident an agreement can be reached with a "constructive attitude" on each side, and said June was a "stepping stone" to reaching a final deal.




Mr Barnier said: "We have no intention of questioning the UK's constitutional order".

"We are seeking practical, practical and operational, solutions to a complex problem".

He inadvertently had a dig at Davis when he took a question from a Northern Irish journalist about Davis believing the backstop wasn't necessary.

But Britain also says it will leave the EU's tariff-free customs union.

"This is an extraordinary negotiation, very complex, extraordinarily complex and we want to succeed with the United Kingdom, not against the United Kingdom", he added.

Barnier arrived in Ireland on Monday for a two-day visit during which he will meet people from different walks of life to learn their views on the Brexit talks, particularly on the Irish border issue.

"Although we do have a common travel area between the United Kingdom and Irish Republic, that is no excuse for formal visits of this nature not being subjected to normal protocol arrangements. We have red lines, so does the European Union, but nobody seems to focus on that", Mr Coveney said.

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