EU’s Barnier to back Dublin over hard Tory Brexit concerns

Nathanael Williams

EU comes out strong for Irish interest in speech by Brexit negotiator as UK Government ponder border problem

MICHEL BARNIER, the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, will today (Thursday 11 May) back the Irish in their concerns over a hard Brexit pursued by the Tory UK Government.

In an honour usually reserved for figures such as Nelson Mandela, Barnier will address the Dáil and Seanad (Irish Parliament) to offer assurances that the EU would back Ireland’s status in negotiations with the UK “100 per cent”.

He has been in Dulin since Wednesday (10 May) having a series of meetings with Irish leaders to share the EU’s negotiation positions and tactics before of the beginning of formal talks with UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Government on Brexit next month.

Barnier will use Friday (12 May) to travel to County Monaghan to visit businesses, farms and people affected by the uncertainty surrounding the border with Northern Ireland. 

“Ireland’s interests are the EU’s.”

A spokesperson from Barnier’s office confirmed that he will say that the EU is “100 per cent aware” of Ireland’s unique position in Europe. This refers to the significant amount of trade that the Republic of Ireland has with the UK, the exposure of the Irish economy to UK trade and Brexit and the land border with Northern Ireland.

In the speech Barnier, who is known to be a strong opponent of any soft bargain with a Brexit UK, will signify Irish interests as “top priority” in the EU’s negotiation process.

“He will strongly defend the interests of the EU, but also of the member states. Ireland’s interests are the EU’s”, according to a spokesperson for the chief negotiator. 

Mr Barnier will also highlight the importance of remaining in the EU for Ireland, and set out what the UK will miss out on when it leaves, but also of Ireland to the EU.

Poll: Almost half in Ireland fear hard border from Brexit chaos

Following Mr Barnier’s address, the leaders of the various political parties and groups in Dáil will have the opportunity to speak. Almost twice as much time has been set aside for TDs to speak as has been allocated to Mr Barnier.

Sinn Féin will use the visit to renew its call for Northern Ireland to be afforded a special status within the EU after the rest of the United Kingdom leaves the union in 2019. The EU Parliament and figures in the Commission such as Junker have already expressed sympathy for this position and cited the continued membership of the EU through Irish citizenship as an avenue for citizens in Northern Ireland.

One of the party’s MEPs, Matt Carthy, said: “People in the North are entitled, under international law, as a result of the Good Friday agreement, to Irish citizenship. That makes them de facto EU citizens.

“Michel Barnier needs to hear a united message from all Irish political representatives that the North of Ireland must have designated special status within the European Union. ”

Later Thursday afternoon, Barnier will meet Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Picture courtesy of WTO

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