Coveney meets Michel Barnier as EU ministers are updated on Brexit

Ministers are attending the General Affairs Council in Brussels

Coveney meets Michel Barnier as EU ministers are updated on Brexit

EU chief negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier (right) with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney at Government Buildings in Dublin in February 2017 | Image: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney is meeting with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier in Brussels on Friday.

Mr Coveney is attending the General Affairs Council, along with Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee, to discuss the state of play in the Brexit negotiations.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Coveney said: "The council will be an important opportunity for ministers to take stock of the current state of play in negotiations and I'm looking forward to a good exchange of views.

"I'm particularly interested in hearing from Michel Barnier, and the European Commission's initial assessment of the UK's more detailed proposals on the future relationship as set out in the White Paper published by the UK government last week.

"While I hope that these proposals will help move the overall negotiations forward, our focus at this stage is still on concluding the Withdrawal Agreement - including the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland and the backstop on the border - and I will stress the need for progress with our EU partners.

"I will also have a separate meeting with Michel Barnier which will allow me to discuss the Irish issues in more detail with the Commission team, with whom we remain in constant contact."

It comes as British Prime Minister Theresa May visits the border region in Northern Ireland.

During a speech in Belfast on Friday, she will call on the EU "evolve their position" on Brexit, while declaring British MPs will veto the bloc's proposed Irish border solution.

Mrs May will spell out how the EU's plan for an Irish border backstop deal is in breach of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Speaking at Belfast's Waterfront Hall on Friday, Mrs May will highlight how an amendment to the UK government's customs bill makes it illegal for Northern Ireland to be part of a customs territory from the rest of the UK.