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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 16 January, 2019

Ireland and the EU were standing side-by-side in making Brexit demands on the UK today

Michel Barnier, however, says the UK will be rewarded if it makes progress.

Belgium Europe Brexit Minister Simon Coveney and the EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. Source: Virginia Mayo/PA Images

EU BREXIT CHIEF Michel Barnier has said the bloc would give the UK its “most ambitious” trade deal — but only if a solution is found to the border issue.

Barnier has warned Britain it had to come up with a solution to avoid imposing a hard border in Ireland if it wanted talks on its departure from the bloc to move on to trade.

If it does, Barnier is now promising a worthwhile trade deal.

“The island of Ireland now faces many challenges. Those who wanted Brexit must offer solutions,” Barnier said.

The UK government has said it wants the Brexit talks to progress to the next phase but Ireland has been steadfast in its demand that more progress must be made on the border issue before the talks move on.

The EU is backing Ireland in this demand and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney welcomed this support.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Nine News this evening, Coveney said.

It’s clear now that Ireland needs more progress, more clarity and more credibility around solutions on the Irish border issue, so that we can ensure that the Good Friday Agreement, after Brexit, can be implemented in full.

That’s been our position for months. Some people I think maybe didn’t think Ireland would hold to that position during this negotiations, we are holding to that position and the European Union negotiating team is supporting us absolutely in that.

The EU is demanding that the UK makes “sufficient progress” on three key areas before the talks move to a possible trade deal and a transitional arrangement. As well as Northern Ireland, the issues are the UK’s Brexit bill and the future status of EU citizens in the UK and vice-versa.

Media reports this evening suggest that British Prime Minister Theresa May is preparing to offer a €40 billion divorce payment.

In order to offer some carrot to the negotiations, Barnier has said that the EU’s trade deal with Britain would be “ambitious”.

“If we manage to negotiate an orderly withdrawal and establish a level playing field, there is every reason for our future partnership to be ambitious. This is our preferred option,” Barnier said in a speech in Brussels.

This is why we have started internal preparations with member states to talk about the future as soon as we have agreed on how to settle the past. The EU will be ready to offer its most ambitious free trade agreement approach.

- With reporting by © – AFP 2017

Read: The UK Sun lashes out at Leo Varadkar, says he should ‘shut his gob on Brexit and grow up’ >

Read: ‘It doesn’t seem like they thought all this through’ – Taoiseach talks tough to UK on Brexit >

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Rónán Duffy

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