Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

09.28 2 Mar 2019


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The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said the EU's ready to give the UK further assurances that the Irish backstop 'should only be temporary'.

His comments come as efforts continue to reach a deal before the UK's scheduled exit from the bloc on March 29th.

If no deal's agreed within the next two weeks, MPs in Westminster could be asked to vote on a short extension to the Brexit process.

However, they'll first vote again on Theresa May's proposed withdrawal agreement and any changes she secured from Brussels.

MPs will also be asked whether they reject a no-deal exit.

The Irish backstop - the 'insurance mechanism' aimed at avoiding a hard border in Ireland - has been the key sticking point for many opponents of the deal in Westminster.

EU officials have repeatedly ruled out any substantial renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement.

However, they've said they can give the UK any reassurances they can in a bid to help get the deal through the British parliament.

"Further guarantees, assurances and clarifications"

Speaking on the issue of the Irish backstop, Michel Barnier told Germany's Die Welt newspaper: "We know that there are misgivings in Britain that the backstop could keep Britain forever connected to the EU.

"This is not the case. And we are ready to give further guarantees, assurances and clarifications that the backstop should only be temporary.

"We will not reverse the backstop. It's an insurance.

He added: "We don't want to make use of it. And this is also the case when you insure your house. It's only intended for the worst-case scenario."

Yesterday, Leo Varadkar said he believes it's unlikely the UK will crash out on March 29th.

Speaking in Belfast, the Taoiseach suggested there'll either be a deal or an extension agreed before then.

He observed: "As is always the case, we have to work hard to achieve that withdrawal agreement, to get it ratified... but also prepare for the worst case scenario should that arise."


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