Barnier pulls out of Belfast appearance as Brexit negotiations continue

The EU’s lead negotiator has cancelled his planned first public speech in the UK since the Brexit vote.

Michel Barnier had been due to address an event at the Queen’s University in Belfast on Monday on “Brexit and the Future of Europe”.

A spokeswoman for the university confirmed that the event has been cancelled.

A copy of a letter from Mr Barnier to the Queen’s University Vice Chancellor Ian Greer, explaining his reasons for pulling out of the event, has been reported by RTE.

In the letter, Mr Barnier said he is aware that his first public speech in the UK since the vote to leave the EU “could be used by some to undermine the chances for an orderly Brexit”.

“At this particular juncture of the process, the UK is engaged in an intense political debate. In many respects, we have finally arrived at a moment of truth for the country,” he wrote.

“It is my judgment that pronouncing myself publicly in the midst of the debate that is ongoing at Westminster would not be appropriate, even though my attitude has always been to work in an objective manner, based on facts and the law, together with the UK, to find solutions for the consequences of Brexit.

“My regret in having to postpone this lecture is amplified by the work done by researchers at Queen’s University. Indeed your university has done a lot of excellent work in highlighting the consequences of Brexit with regard to the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement and the need to protect the integrity of the Single Market and the place of Ireland in it.”

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