Published On: Mon, Sep 2nd, 2019

Brexit news: Michel Barnier and Leo Varadkar fight to stop EU leaders | UK | News

The Brussels negotiator has toured EU capitals to warn that the Prime Minister’s plans to replace the controversial Northern Ireland backstop must be treated with caution. The European Commission and Ireland fear that key EU figures, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, are preparing to offer a number of concessions on the Irish border in a desperate bid to avoid a no-deal Brexit. Mr Barnier has told EU leaders that any alternative must protect both the EU’s single market and the all-Ireland economy, as well as prevent a hard border.

This weekend, the French eurocrat expressed his pessimism over the Prime Minister’s ongoing refusal to accept the backstop.

“I am not optimistic about avoiding a no-deal scenario, but we should all continue to work with determination,” he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

“On the EU side, we had intense discussions with EU member states on the need to guarantee the integrity of the EU’s single market while keeping that border fully open.

“In this sense the backstop is the maximum amount of flexibility that the EU can offer to a non-member state.”

EU sources have revealed that key figures will this week increase their resistance to any plans presented by Mr Johnson’s chief negotiator David Frost.

Officials in Brussels want to restrict positivity in London after comments made by Mrs Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron were deemed to mean the EU is ready to change the withdrawal agreement.

The EU is said to be unhappy after Mr Johnson has gained the upper hand in the Brexit negotiations and the way that the talks have been spun by his team.

Guy Verhofstadt is also expected to make his support for Mr Barnier’s hardline approach vocal in the coming days.

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“What we are not in the business of doing is essentially being told by a British prime minister that this is the way it is now, and that because of the British parliament insisting on something, that everybody else has to accept that, or else the house of cards gets pulled down for everybody,” Mr Coveney told Ireland’s Sunday Business Post.

Having also returned from a week-long tour of EU capitals, he claimed that support for Ireland is strong despite efforts in the UK to divide and rule.

He said: “There isn’t a single EU member state putting pressure on Ireland to move away from that position, despite the fact that the UK has spoken to all of them and used all of the persuasion that they can muster to actually move countries away from that position.”

In the strongest sign yet that Dublin will rebuke any potential Brexit compromises, Mr Coveney stressed that any concessions would shift Britain’s problems onto Ireland.

He said: “I’m not going to pretend to people that we can do that for political convenience now to get a deal, and then find that Irish politics is dominated by the border issue indefinitely into the future. We’re not doing that.

“This is essentially transferring a problem that has been created by Brexit, by a decision by the UK, and transferring it to Ireland on a permanent basis.”

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