Brexit must avoid hard border in Ireland, says European Union negotiator

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, gives a joint press conference on the negotiations with the United Kingdom Council under Article 50 at the European Union headquarters in Brussels

"Today, in front of these two houses, I want to reassure the Irish people: in this negotiation, Ireland's interest will be the Union's interest", Mr Barnier told MPs and senators.

He has been in Dulin since Wednesday (10 May) having a series of meetings with Irish leaders to share the EU's negotiation positions and tactics before of the beginning of formal talks with UK Prime Minister Theresa May's Government on Brexit next month.

However, the Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) disagrees, saying he believes now is not the time for a vote in his address to Barnier.

Such an opportunity has previously been afforded to the likes of Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.

Michel Barneir's promised to try and avoid a hard border, but it's the clearest signal yet that a change to the border with the North will be a effect of Brexit.

Mrs May has accused Brussels insiders of seeking to influence the outcome of the June 8 General Election. "Nothing in this negotiation should put peace at risk", he added.

In negotiating guidelines agreed last month, European Union leaders said the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland will require flexible and imaginative solutions.

"We first must make sufficient progress on these points before we start discussing the future of our relationship with the UK".




Mr Barnier said Ireland's interest would be shared by the entire EU.

He said: "I am very aware of the concerns on the part of the Irish people and I am ready to find solutions, respecting the market rules but also taking into account the unique situation of Ireland".

'The sooner this will happen, the better.

There will be many issues where, although Ireland still has a strategic interest in a deal being done with the United Kingdom, we will find ourselves on the other side of the table.

"Ireland's interests are the EU's."

"We have to use our combined strength", he said, "and deliver solutions that benefit all member-states". It should remain a close partner.

'But we will need the same ambition for our research and innovation networks and for the fight against climate change.

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