Belfast Telegraph

PM's plan is not a basis for solution, Barnier tells European Parliament

EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier
EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier

By Gavin Cordon

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said there is still no basis for a deal on Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

Ahead of next week's crucial EU summit, Mr Barnier said they had yet to see any "operational, legally binding solution" to the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop.

Addressing the European Parliament in Brussels, Mr Barnier said Boris Johnson's plan to avoid the return of a hard border with the Republic - which would require the return of customs checks on the island of Ireland - was not the basis for a solution.

"To put things very frankly, though, and to try and be objective, (at) this particular point, we are not really in a position where we are able to find an agreement," he said. "The proposal of the British Government as things stand is not something we can accept. It replaces an operational, practical, legal solution with one that is simply a temporary solution."

Mr Barnier's downbeat assessment was echoed by Mr Varadkar, who said Mr Johnson's insistence that Northern Ireland must leave the customs union with the rest of the UK remained an obstacle to progress.

"That's their position at the moment and that's one that is a great difficulty for us," he told the Irish parliament yesterday.

"As far as the Irish Government is concerned, we do want a deal, we're willing to work hard to get a deal, to work until the last moment to get a deal, but certainly not at any cost," he added.

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