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Dublin: 4°C Thursday 25 February 2021

Nigel Farage says EU's tone is 'emollient' as Martina Anderson dons Irish jersey in EU parliament

“It is certainly not a question of pretending to negotiate”, Barnier warned, as Juncker told MEPs the risk of no deal remains “very real”.

A BREXIT DEBATE has taken place in the European Parliament, drawing statements from MEPs Nigel Farage, Guy Verhofstadt and a symbolic gesture from Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson. 

Wearing an Irish soccer jersey of midfielder James McClean, Anderson said that it was her right as an Irish-passport holder from Northern Ireland to remain as an EU citizen, despite Brexit. 

There is no dress code or restriction on messages on clothing for the European Parliament, which is different from the Dáil rules.

Her statement came after the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker this morning gave MEPs an update on the progress made on Brexit.

“It is certainly not a question of pretending to negotiate,” Barnier warned.

In “this extraordinary and complex negotiation… it is our responsibility to pursue this process with determination, with sincerity”.

After meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, Juncker told MEPs: ”I said to Mr Johnson that I have no emotional attachment to the backstop, but I stand by the objectives it is intended to achieve.”

The risk of a no deal remains very real. That will maybe be the choice of the United Kingdom but never the choice of the European Union.

Anderson told her fellow MEPs that her Irish passport gives an entitlement to those born on the island of Ireland to be part of the Irish nation and entitled to EU citizenship.

While the backstop is essential to prevent a hardening of the border and protect the all-island trade and economy, it takes us out of the EU against our will. 

Referencing the recent Lord Ashcroft poll that indicated that a slim majority of those in Northern Ireland would be in favour of reunification, Anderson said that it was “important” that the European Parliament recognise the “legitimacy to our right to change Northern Ireland’s status”. 

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage spoke directly after Anderson, and said that it was clear from “the emollient tone from Junker and Barnier that we’re actually very close to a deal on the backstop being agreed”. 

This treaty – even without the backstop – is a very bad deal for Britain.

He referred to a humiliation by the “pipsqueak Prime Minister of Luxembourg”.

Luxembourg’s PM Xavier Bettel conducted a press conference next to an empty lectern after Boris Johnson withdrew from it due to protests on Monday. 

Bettel, who had a meeting with Johnson following the British leader’s lunch with Juncker, was scathing about Johnson’s efforts to rewrite a withdrawal agreement the UK had struck with the EU under his predecessor Theresa May.

“Keeping us trapped inside [the EU] was Barnier’s plan,” Nigel Farage said today.

The fear is that the UK breaks out of the Customs Union, breaks out of the Single Market rules and we become more competitive and we become much wealthier outside of the European Union than within it.

“We want no part of your European empire, we want a clean break Brexit.” 

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