Belfast Telegraph

There is always an answer, says Barnier as Brexit border dominates Ireland visit

There is always an answer to what shape the Irish border takes after Brexit, Michel Barnier said.

The EU's chief negotiator visited the Republic's frontier with Northern Ireland at the end of a two-day visit.

It will become the UK's only land border with an EU state after Brexit.

The Frenchman said: "There is always an answer, there is always a road when there is a will."

He had earlier raised the prospect of customs controls but struck a pragmatic note after meeting business owners badly affected by Brexit.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair has told a meeting in the Irish Republic of Europe's centre-right political groups that a "hard border" on the island would be a disaster.

The former prime minister said a deal between Britain and Ireland on the issue was the best way of limiting damage from Brexit.

"If the UK and the Republic were able to agree a way forward on the border, then we would have the best chance of limiting the damage. It is in the interests of us all, including our European partners, for this to happen."

He said getting consensus on the border will be crucial in the negotiations.

On Friday, Mr Barnier visited a company producing ready-made meals for the UK which could be hard hit by Brexit.

He warned: "This negotiation once again will be extraordinary and very complex and difficult."

Mr Barnier said the talks would be financial, legal and technical but firstly human, social and economic.

"I want to listen, to meet the people on the ground, to come into the negotiation having the feet on the ground.

"I came to this county of Monaghan to listen, not to give solutions."

Businesses and politicians in the Republic and Northern Ireland want to avoid the restrictions on movement of the past.

Brexit Secretary David Davis has said the UK would adopt technology to cover the transport of goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The British Government wants a "frictionless" arrangement to avoid a return to the borders of the past when the area was heavily militarised because of the IRA threat.

On Thursday Mr Barnier warned Brexit would have consequences and said controls were part of EU border management, protecting the single market and food safety.

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