By Anthony Neeson
The European Union will not sign off on any Brexit deal with the UK until the EU is satisfied with the solution for the Irish border, this according to Michel Barnier.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator made the promise in an article he penned for the Dublin-published Sunday Independent newspaper.
It came as Mr. Barnier arrived in Ireland for a two day visit that included a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and visits to both sides of the border.
Mr. Barnier, who is French, said that after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, part of Ireland would be inside the EU’s single market while “another part of the island will be outside the single market.”
“This will inevitably create challenges for both jurisdictions on the island, as well as for trade between Ireland and the UK, and Ireland and the rest of the EU,” he wrote.
“The ‘back-stop’ solution will be there to prevent the return of a border on the island of Ireland, and to protect north-south cooperation and the Good Friday Agreement, whatever the future relationship between the EU and the UK holds in store.
“In case there is any doubt whatsoever about our commitment to this, let me by crystal clear; we will not conclude the Withdrawal Agreement with the UK unless we have such a solution included in the text of the agreement. We will not sign any agreement with the UK unless we – together with the Irish government – are satisfied with the solution found for Ireland.”
Criticizing Mr. Barnier, DUP leader Arlene Foster claimed he “does not understand” the unionist position in Northern Ireland.
“Michel Barnier’s trying to present himself as someone who cares deeply about Northern Ireland and if that is the case he needs to hear the fact that we are part of the United Kingdom [and] will remain part of the United Kingdom constitutionally, politically and economically,” said Foster.
“Therefore his proposal of us being in an all-Ireland regulatory scenario with a border down the Irish Sea simply does not work.
“It does not work constitutionally, politically and it certainly does not work from an economic perspective.”
She added: “We’ve tried to get him to understand the unionist position for the people of Northern Ireland but he hasn’t really responded and I’m disappointed about that.”