The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has warned that talks are at risk if the UK does not soften its red line on the Irish border issue.
Speaking to reporters on his third visit to Ireland since the referendum, Michel Barnier said he was “not optimistic” and “not pessimistic” but “determined” that the two sides can break the current impasse on talks.
He repeated recent declarations that unless Britain came up with fresh thinking on how to avoid a hard border by the June EU council summit, further talks were in danger of collapsing.
“Until we reach this agreement and this operational solution for Northern Ireland, a backstop [solution], and we are ready for any proposal … there is a risk, a real risk,” he said.
But he hinted that the UK would not have to come up with the final deal for Ireland, describing the June summit as “a stepping stone” to the October deadline for the wider Brexit deal to be completed.
The Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said Britain’s “approach to negotiations will need to change in some way” if there is to be agreement over the issue.
Appearing alongside Varadkar and his deputy, Simon Coveney, Barnier said the EU was “absolutely united” on the Irish question but wanted to work with the UK to find a practical solution.
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