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Brexit: EU stands fully behind Ireland, says Barnier

Barnier and Varadkar Image caption Michel Barnier and Leo Varadkar held a joint press conference, and said they would await the outcome of cross-party talks in Westminster

The European Union will “stand fully behind Ireland” regardless of what happens with Brexit, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has said.

Michel Barnier was speaking in Dublin after talks with Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar.

A special EU summit will take place on Wednesday, to discuss Theresa May’s request for another extension.

The UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU on 12 April, unless a delay is agreed.

Mr Barnier said he was confident “operational solutions” could still be found to manage the Irish border, the sticking point in the talks.

He and Mr Varadkar also discussed planning being undertaken by the Republic of Ireland and European Commission, to manage the Irish border in the event of no deal.

Mr Varadkar said if a no-deal outcome occurred, it would be a “shared challenge” for the Republic of Ireland and EU.

In Westminster, Mrs May has been in talks with Labour to try and find cross-party agreement to pass a deal in Parliament.

Image Copyright @simoncoveney @simoncoveney

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Twitter post by @simoncoveney: Good meeting with ⁦@MichelBarnier⁩. Focused on approach to EU Council this week & No Deal #Brexit prep in Ireland. We agreed the need to protect peace and Ireland’s place in EU single market. No solution comes close to the benefits of the Backstop for Ire or NI. Image Copyright @simoncoveney @simoncoveney
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She is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday.

Mr Barnier said he hoped for a “positive outcome” to those talks, while Mr Varadkar told the joint press conference: “From Ireland’s perspective, we are open to extending the deadline to allow these discussions to continue their course.”

Mr Varadkar later said he had spoken to Mrs May in a telephone call on Monday evening and “repeated his openness to an extension of the deadline”.

Image caption The DUP’s Nigel Dodds said unionist views should be respected

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds told the BBC: “If Leo Varadkar and Michel Barnier really did think so much of the Belfast Agreement and peace in Northern Ireland, then they would start to respect the views of unionists and listen to what people in Northern Ireland are actually saying about how they want their relationship going forward.”

‘No easy task’

On Monday, Mr Barnier also held meetings with the Tánaiste (Irish Deputy Prime Minister) Simon Coveney and other Irish government ministers.

He said the EU’s goal was to protect the Good Friday peace agreement, peace on the island of Ireland and the integrity of the EU single market.

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