The European Union's Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said that the United Kingdom must be flexible in its positions on the Northern Irish border with the Republic of Ireland or risk the collapse of talks over the future relationship between Britain and the Continental bloc.
"Until we reach this agreement and this operational solution for Northern Ireland, a backstop [solution], and we are ready for any proposal, there is a risk, a real risk," he said in comments to the British media.
Michel Barnier also dropped major hints about how progress on Ireland could be unlocked:— Adam Fleming (@adamfleming) April 30, 2018
1) recognition from the UK that Northern Ireland solution is unique
2) specific proposals from the UK on regulatory alignment with emphasis on safety of consumers, business etc
Good. Let them collapse. We walk away with our £40bn and the EU plunged into financial bedlam. https://t.co/MzjV0nebXt— David Vance (@DVATW) April 30, 2018
The warning comes as the head of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (DUP) Arlene Foster slammed Mr. Barnier for not knowing enough of the country's shared history with the rest of the United Kingdom and even for not being a reliable negotiating partner, implying that he is too influenced by the position of the Republic of Ireland's government which will be able to veto any agreement that erects a hard border between the countries.
"I don't think he does understand the wider unionist culture of Northern Ireland. He's hearing a very strong message from the Republic of Ireland's government, he's hearing it from Sinn Féin," Ms. Foster said in comments reported in the Irish media.
The DUP, whose ten members in the House of Commons enable the Conservative Party to maintain its governing majority nearly sank a preliminary agreement between the UK and EU in December that allowed talks to proceed to the next stage over fears that Northern Ireland would remain in the EU Customs Union and Single Market, while the rest of the UK left.