Irish ministers head to Brussels for Brexit talks

Ireland’s deputy leader and minister of European Affairs travelled to Brussels on Monday for meetings with the General Affairs Council.

Simon Coveney and Helen McEntee will attend a meeting on Brexit and a further bilateral meeting with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Speaking on his departure for Brussels, Mr Coveney said focus is required for a satisfactory agreement.

Michel Barnier
Michel Barnier

“I am looking forward to discussing the state of play in the Brexit negotiations with our EU partners and our negotiator Michel Barnier,” he said.

“Negotiations are at a very critical and sensitive stage.

“Clear and focused thinking is now required if a satisfactory agreement is to be reached.

“We want an agreement to be reached as soon as possible but urgency is required. The EU and Ireland’s position remains clear and consistent.

“The withdrawal agreement must include a legally operable backstop for avoiding a hard border that must be in place unless and until another solution is found.

“Any review mechanism must be in line with this. All sides agree that this is essential in order to protect the Good Friday Agreement and our peace process.”

The talks come after DUP leader Arlene Foster said on Friday that she would not support British Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to have a Northern Ireland-specific backstop which would see a border down the Irish Sea.

She added that the DUP will not support that and will not be able to support the move in the British Parliament.