No deal will not resolve Irish problem: Barnier

In a no-deal Brexit, the EU “will not discuss anything with the UK” until agreement is reached on the Irish border, the EU’s top negotiator has said.

During a visit to Dublin yesterday – his fifth in the role – Michel Barnier said the EU will stand fully behind Ireland, and the EU’s 27 member states would remain fully united.

Michel Barnier, the EU's Chief Brexit Negotiator at a press conference in Government Buildings in Dublin ahead of the European Council meeting on Wednesday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday April 8, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Brexit Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Michel Barnier, the EU's Chief Brexit Negotiator at a press conference in Government Buildings in Dublin ahead of the European Council meeting on Wednesday. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday April 8, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Brexit Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

“If the UK were to leave the EU without a deal we would not discuss anything with the UK until there is an agreement for Ireland and Northern Ireland as well as for citizens’ rights and the financial settlement,” Mr Barnier said.

“You have our full support and, I have said before, the backstop is currently the only solution we have found to maintain the status quo on the island of Ireland.”

Mr Barnier expressed confidence that a solution would be found on how to protect the Belfast Agreement all-Ireland structures as well as the integrity of the single market.

“There have been intensive discussions between our teams over the past (few) weeks,” he said.

“Our goal is to protect the Good Friday Agreement, peace on this island and the integrity of the single market.

“It is not an easy task but I am confident we will find operational solutions.

“One thing is for certain, whatever happens, the EU will stand fully behind Ireland.”

He added that future work on the customs union could be done extremely quickly.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed confidence that the EU would reach agreement at tomorrow’s European Council meeting of leaders.

He reiterated that, although he wishes to see a deal ratified, contingency planning for a “damaging” no-deal Brexit has intensified in the Republic, and that Ireland would be open to an extension.