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Chief Brexit negotiator Barnier meets Ireland's PM Varadkar

EPA-EFE/AIDAN CRAWLEY
Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar (L) and EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (R) during their meeting at Government Buildings in Dublin, Ireland, 27 January 2020.

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EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier met on Monday with Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Prime Minister (Taoiseach) in Government Buildings in Dublin, to discuss the next phase of Brexit ahead of UK’s scheduled departure from the bloc on 31 January.
“What Brexit really showed that for us in Europe it doesn’t matter whether you are big or small. We are all part of a family,” said Barnier at a joint press conference.
During their meeting, the two officials discussed the nature of the future EU-UK relationship and the various “challenges” that Ireland will face due to Brexit in the fields of fishing, agriculture, exporters, the land-bridge, aviation, haulage and universities.
Barnier stressed that in case a trade deal is not achieved, it “cannot be business as usual” and that both sides “are to face the risk of a cliff edge.” The EU’s Brexit negotiator also said he would present a draft negotiating mandate to the EU member states next Monday.
“On Friday, the UK is leaving the European Union. We’ll say goodbye to an old friend embarking on an adventure. We hope it works out for them. But if it does not there will always be a seat kept for them at the table,” Varadkar said.
According to a press release issued by the Irish government after the bilateral meeting, the leader of Fine Gael party stressed the need for unity among member states, the “Team 27”, as he called them, during the next phase of negotiations with the UK, and asked Barnier to continue protecting the EU single market.
“We need to start a new relationship between the EU and the UK on a firm and honest footing,” Varadkar said.
Before his meeting with Barnier, the Taoiseach told BBC news in an interview that he believes the EU will have the “upper hand” in the upcoming trade talks with the UK, due to its larger population and market.
The Taoiseach highlighted that the Irish Protocol as part of the Withdrawal Agreement had ensured there was no hard border, free movement on the island of Ireland had been maintained and citizens’ rights protected.
After the UK leaves the bloc on Friday 23:00 GMT, a post-Brexit transition period will begin, during which, an EU-UK trade deal has to be achieved.
While the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is not open to any extension, as he will be able to “wrap it all up” by 2020, Varadkar considers achieving a trade deal by the end of 2020 “challenging”, as the “window of opportunity to negotiate is very short”.
 

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