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EU ready to discuss new Brexit deal if UK changes 'red lines' - Barnier

The EU’s top negotiator said the risk of no-deal Brexit “has never seemed so high”.

Image: Jean-Francois Badias

THE EUROPEAN UNION’S chief Bexit negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that the risk of a no-deal Brexit is now greater than ever before after the British parliament resoundingly defeated the withdrawal deal last night.

Speaking in the European Parliament, Barnier said the EU “profoundly” regrets the result of the vote in the House of Commons.

“We are 10 weeks from the 31st of March and at 10 weeks the risk of a no deal has never seemed so high,” he said in Strasbourg.

The French politician defended the Brexit deal but said that the EU is willing to reopen talks if London is willing to change its existing “red lines”.

Barnier added that a safeguard preventing a physical border on the island of Ireland will have to remain in any potential deal.

That remark was echoed by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, who was keen to stress that the withdrawal agreement was signed up to by the governments of every EU member state including the UK.

Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1, Coveney said, as the March 29 exit date looms large, it’s still unclear what Britain wants.

“There’s a lot still to happen in the parliament in Westminster in the next few days before it becomes clear what Britain is asking for,” he said.

“It’s very hard for us to respond, or for EU leaders to respond, in a helpful way until we know what the British parliament and the British government are looking for.

We still don’t know that, with, approaching, 70 days to go before Britain leaves the EU formally. We need to hold our nerve this week.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May will face a confidence vote this evening after suffering the largest government defeat in modern British history last night.

May struck a conciliatory tone after the vote, promising cross-party talks to try to salvage a workable Brexit deal before returning with a new plan next Monday.

She is expected to win the confidence vote which is scheduled to take place at 7pm.

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Ceimin Burke

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