October 5, 2018 / 10:44 AM / 2 months ago

Barnier meets Northern Irish parties, stresses Brexit backstop

European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier meets with Sinn Fein Deputy Leader Michelle O'Neill, Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) Colum Eastwood and Steven Agnew, leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, at the EC headquarters in Brussels, Belgium October 5, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Walschaerts/Pool

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said he stressed the need for a binding deal to avoid a disruptive EU border for Northern Ireland when he met leading politicians from the British province on Friday.

He tweeted that he had met leaders or deputy leaders from four parties “to discuss the ongoing Brexit negotiations and the importance of a legally operative backstop for Northern Ireland”.

Barnier is due to meet senior figures from the biggest party, the Democratic Unionists, on Tuesday. The DUP, allies of British Prime Minister Theresa May, strongly oppose Barnier’s current proposals for a “backstop” that would apply EU rules to Northern Ireland but not to the British mainland in the event that London and Brussels fail to agree a post-Brexit free trade deal that would ensure minimal border checks in Ireland.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; editing by Foo Yun Chee

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