EU chief backs Ireland's tough stance on Border
Special rules to govern trade between the Republic and Northern Ireland can be invested to facilitate Brexit, the EU's chief negotiator has said.
Michel Barnier has thrown his full weight behind Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's hard stance on the Border issue, saying it is up to Britain to put forward workable solutions.
Fears in the British government that Ireland will seek to block the Brexit negotiations moving past the opening phase at an EU Council meeting on December 14 will have been heightened by Mr Barnier's intervention.
Mr Varadkar has told British Prime Minister Thersea May that he wants a written commitment to a soft Border that also outlines the basic principles of how it would operate.
British officials have insisted this cannot be outlined until the talks move into the second phase which will deal with the future trading relationship between the EU and the UK.
However, Mr Barnier said; "Some in the UK say that specific rules for Northern Ireland would 'endanger the integrity of the UK single market'.
"But Northern Ireland already has specific rules in many areas that are different to the rest of the UK."
He cited the power market and plant and animal health rules. "I expect the UK, as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, to come forward with proposals. Those who wanted Brexit must offer solutions," he said.
It comes as Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney confirmed that Ireland was now preparing for the possibility of no deal.
In a reply to questions from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, the minister said: "Planning is ongoing across Government to prepare for all possible scenarios, including in the event of no deal being reached, but we are not at the cliff edge yet."
He said any solution to the Border issue would "need to be political".