Sunday 22 October 2017

We will find a Border solution, insists Barnier

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier Photo: Reuters
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier Photo: Reuters

Sarah Collins

A frictionless Border post-Brexit will be impossible if the UK insists on leaving the single market and customs union, the EU's chief negotiator has said.

But Michel Barnier told the Irish Independent that the EU "will find solutions" to deal with the Irish Border, which he insists is one of his top priorities.

"There will of course be consequences from Brexit. I hope they will be as limited as possible," Mr Barnier said yesterday.

"I want to preserve the Good Friday Agreement and the common travel area, and I want to find solutions with the Republic of Ireland and with the British authorities.

"Don't ask me to tell you now - when the negotiations have only just started - the solutions that we will come up with.

"We will find solutions," he said after meeting local politicians, trade unions and business representatives in Zeebrugge, one of Belgium's main UK sea links.

Earlier, in a stark warning to hard Brexiteers, Mr Barnier had said he wasn't sure the EU's red lines "have been fully understood across the Channel".

"I have heard some people in the UK argue that one can leave the single market and build a customs union to achieve 'frictionless trade' - that is not possible," Mr Barnier said in a speech in Brussels.

"A trading relationship with a country that does not belong to the European Union obviously involves friction," he told the European Economic and Social Committee, a consultative assembly of trade union and employers' representatives.

He said trade "will never be as fluid for a country that chooses to leave the single market and the customs union".

Meanwhile, British Brexit Secretary David Davis will be confronted today by business leaders demanding an indefinite delay in Britain's departure from the Single Market and the Customs Union.

The Brexit Secretary has invited some of Britain's most senior executives to his grace-and-favour residence at Chevening in Kent for an informal summit.

In a major escalation of the business community's attempt to soften Brexit, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) group called on the Government to reach an open-ended "transitional deal" with the European Union to protect businesses.

Mr Davis and other senior Tory Eurosceptic MPs have said that they expect Britain to leave the Single Market after Brexit negotiations end in March 2019.

Irish Independent

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