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Backstop not part of EU's tactics in Brexit talks: Barnier

Xinhua,May 02, 2018 Adjust font size:

DUBLIN, April 30 (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU) chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday denied the accusation that the EU is using the Irish border issue as part of its tactics in the on-going Brexit talks for its own gains.

"Backstop is not part of the negotiation strategy. We are not playing tactics with Ireland's vital interests. Never, " said Barnier while addressing a public gathering on Monday morning in Dundalk, a small town in northeast tip of Ireland, which is close to the border of Britain's Northern Ireland.

Backstop refers to a proposed agreement between the EU and Britain to ensure the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland will remain the same as it is now after Britian's withdrawal from the EU.

He said EU is not trying to get an upper hand, or trying to challenge British redlines, or even trying to reverse Brexit as being said or reported, by insisting on a backdrop agreement in the Brexit talks.

"This is wrong," he told hundreds of audience at a local university in Dundalk, which also included Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.

"The backstop is not there to challenge the UK's redlines. It is there because of the UK's redlines. The UK's decision to leave the single market and the customs union creates the risk that a hard border will return, " he said.

Barnier recalled his visit to the border region between Ireland and Northern Ireland in 1999 shortly after the "Good Friday Agreement" was signed. He said during the visit he saw some checks and controls were still visible on the border waiting to be dismantled.

He hailed the progress and benefits that have resulted from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement 20 years ago. He said all the hard-won achievements since then should be protected and cherished.

"There is no way back," he said.

He assured the audience of the EU's firm commitment to a backstop agreement in the Brexit talks.

"Without backstop, there can be no withdrawal agreement," he said.

He said the Irish border issue is one of the three key priorities of the Brexit talks from the very beginning and it is an EU issue,not only just an Irish issue.

"Backstop is needed in order to respect the integrity of the EU single market and the EU customs union," he said, adding that goods entering Northern Ireland must comply with the rules of the single market and the customs union code.

He called for substantive progress to be made on the backstop agreement before the June European Council summit so that to pave the way for the negotiations between the EU and Britain for broad partnership for the future.

Barnier arrived in Ireland on Monday for a two-day visit during which he will meet people from different walks of life to learn their views on the Brexit talks, particularly on the Irish border issue. Enditem