Michel Barnier rules out bilateral agreement between UK and Ireland

Michel Barnier rules out bilateral agreement between UK and Ireland

The European Union's chief negotiator on Brexit has ruled out that there will be a bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and Ireland to remove the backstop from the withdrawal agreement.

In an interview with RTÉ News, Michel Barnier dismissed reports that such an arrangement could be negotiated, and insisted that the EU would work together as a single team.

It was reported over the weekend that British Prime Minister Theresa May would propose the plans to the House of Commons today in an effort to save her Brexit deal.

Speaking today, Mr Barnier reiterated that the withdrawal agreement, "in all its dimensions, including the backstop, is the best deal possible".

He said the EU was willing to work again on the political declaration and to be "more ambitious" on this.

"It's now for the UK to tell us what are the next steps for the negotiations," Mr Barnier said on Mrs May's bid to get her revised Brexit plan through Parliament.

"We have worked for 18 months with the UK government to reach a deal, to organise and to deliver Brexit," he said.

"We have agreed the best deal possible now."

Mr Barnier said that the 27 EU member states would work as one team, again dismissing that Mrs May's reported attempts to appease the DUP and Tory backbenchers with a bilateral deal would come to fruition.

When questioned on how the British Prime Minister could successfully get her deal through the commons, Mr Barnier said he did not want to intervene on the debate in the UK.

"It's now for the UK leaders to build this stable and positive majority for a deal.

We are waiting for the next step from the UK government, but we are ready to work again on the political declaration.

"After Brexit, and we are going to deliver Brexit through this withdrawal agreement, the more important thing is to organise the future relationship, and a strong and ambitious partnership between the UK and the EU."

He said this was "an unprecedented partnership".

Mr Barnier was speaking after he and Tánaiste Simon Coveney held a 45-minute meeting in Brussels today.

Mr Coveney echoed Mr Barnier's comments, saying that Ireland and the EU remain united in their position towards Brexit.

Meanwhile, Poland became the first member state to break ranks with the EU's position after the country's foreign minister suggested that a time limit could be placed on the backstop.

In an interview with Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita, Jacek Czaputowicz said that the backstop could be limited to five years in order for the Brexit impasse to be resolved.

He said that while this proposal would be less beneficial for Ireland than an indefinite backstop, it would be a more favourable option than a no-deal Brexit which he believes is "inevitably approaching".

"We need bold action," he told the paper.

Mr Czaputowicz said the UK and Ireland were playing "a game of chicken" which would lead to "a frontal collision" unless a compromise was made.

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