Ireland’s Coveney to meet Barnier over Brexit negotiations

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Ireland’s deputy leader Simon Coveney will hold a private meeting on Tuesday in Luxembourg with EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier.

The Tanaiste and Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee have travelled to Luxembourg for Brexit talks at the General Affairs Council.

Mr Coveney, who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, will meet separately with Mr Barnier to discuss the current state of play in negotiations, and in particular talks on the draft Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, including the backstop on avoiding a hard border.

Mr Coveney said he was disappointed further progress had not been made on the UK’s exit from the European Union.

“It is obviously disappointing that it has not yet been possible to make the decisive progress that we urgently need in the negotiations, despite the intensive efforts of both EU and UK negotiators,” he said.

“The (Irish) Government’s position is clear – we want the negotiations to succeed but this will only be possible with agreement on a legally robust backstop to avoid a hard border in the Withdrawal Agreement, which must apply in all circumstances.

“Today’s meeting offers another opportunity to thank our EU partners for their solid support and solidarity, which has been unwavering, and to reiterate our total support for Michel Barnier and his Task Force.”

In advance of the European Council this week, the 27 European Union countries involved in Brexit negotiations, known as EU27, will meet on Tuesday with the General Affairs Council, and on Wednesday will hold a European Leaders meeting.

At the General Affairs Council, ministers will be looking at the internal and external aspects of migration and new measures to strengthen the internal security of the Union.

The visit comes just a day after reports that Brexit talks have run into a “significant problem” over the issue of the Northern Ireland border.

EU negotiators are said to be demanding a “backstop to the backstop” to prevent a return of a “hard border” between the North and the Irish Republic.

Theresa May has insisted that any backstop must be time-limited, which the Irish Government has already ruled out.

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