Barnier warns "serious divergences remain" on Irish border in Brexit talks

A joint statement says some agreement has been made in other areas

Barnier warns "serious divergences remain" on Irish border in Brexit talks

Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speaking at a press conference at a All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit in Dundalk | Image: Eamonn Farrell/

The chief European Union negotiator on Brexit has warned that "serious divergences remain" over the Irish border question.

Michel Barnier was commenting after a joint statement from the European Commission and the UK.

He said: "Today's progress is due to the dedication and commitment of both negotiating teams, whom I would like to thank.

"We have advanced on some separation issues for which European businesses need certainty, such as customs, VAT, Euratom and certificates for goods.

"Engagement by the UK on remaining issues such as the protection of personal data and geographical indications is also to be welcomed."

But he added: "Serious divergences remain, however, on the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

"I would like to recall that the Withdrawal Agreement must contain a fully operational backstop solution for Ireland and Northern Ireland."

He said while this marks "a step forward" in negotiations, "a lot more work needs to be done before October."

Meanwhile the joint statement outlined that agreement has been reached at negotiators’ level across areas such as goods placed on the market, ongoing value added tax and excise duty and judicial cooperation.

Agreement has also been reached on intellectual property, public procurements and administrative cooperation procedures.

But the joint statement also noted that on the border issue, "scoping work has continued on the full range of provisions in the protocol, in the context of both parties’ commitment to the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.

"Both parties recognise that the backstop on Ireland/Northern Ireland requires provisions in relation to customs and regulatory alignment in line with paragraph 49 of the Joint Report of December 2017.

"Discussions were held on the UK proposal of June 7th which aims at addressing the customs aspects of the backstop.

"The finalised results of the North-South mapping exercise on cross border cooperation will be published shortly."