March 19, 2018 / 10:04 AM / a month ago

Ireland demands border assurance before Brexit transition deal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The Irish government demanded on Monday that the European Union ensure Britain is not “backsliding” on an interim accord about the Northern Ireland border before EU leaders offer London a deal on a transition period at a summit on Friday.

European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attends a meeting with Ireland's Foreign and Trade Minister Simon Coveney in Brussels, Belgium, March 19, 2018. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via Reuters

EU diplomats and officials say a deal on the transition, a key issue for British business, is close to agreement after negotiations through the weekend. Dublin has made clear it will not accept that without renewed assurances from Britain that there can be a “backstop” arrangement, if all else fails, to avoid a disruptive “hard border” after Brexit.

“The EU27 have been consistent that there can be no backsliding on any part of December’s agreement,” Coveney was quoted as saying ahead of a meeting with fellow EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

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“This highlights the importance of the UK engaging meaningfully on all aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the fallback Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.”

An Irish spokesman said Coveney was looking forward to hearing the assessment of EU negotiator Michel Barnier on whether that is happening, adding: “This will be necessary to move the negotiations on at Friday’s European Council.”

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel

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