EU pledges to respect Ireland's special case in talks
The withdrawal agreement between the UK and the European Union must recognise the unique position and special circumstances of the island of Ireland, MEPs have said.
A resolution adopted by the European Parliament, setting out its red lines in the Brexit talks, said all means and measures consistent with EU law and the Good Friday Agreement must be used to mitigate the effects on the Border of Brexit.
The resolution noted there was a need to ensure the stability of the peace process and "to do everything possible to avoid a hardening of the Border".
The text largely repeated the same priorities set by European Council President Donald Tusk in his draft negotiating guidelines released last week.
It was backed by more than two-thirds of those in the parliament, which will have to approve any deal with the UK.
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was "greatly encouraged" that the resolution contains a "very strong acknowledgement" of Ireland's unique concerns on Brexit.
"This position reflects the sound understanding within the Parliament of our unique issues, not least in relation to the peace process, the Border and the common travel area, and the need to address these issues effectively in the forthcoming negotiations," Mr Flanagan said.
The resolution noted that the European Parliament was especially concerned about the consequences of Brexit for Northern Ireland and its future relations with the Republic.
Earlier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the EU will not look to punish the UK, but it must pay what it owes.
He also said that the talks process will ensure the peace process here is not called into question.
Mr Barnier - who had earlier been chastised by Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson for "twiddling" on his phone as Mr Nicholson spoke - also said that Britain must stop pressing for immediate parallel talks with the EU on a post-Brexit free trade deal.
"This is a very risky approach," Mr Barnier said in a speech to the European Parliament.
"To succeed, we need on the contrary to devote the first phase of negotiations exclusively to reaching an agreement on the principles of the exit."