EU’s Barnier says Irish border issue could lead to failure

PARIS (AP) – European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Friday that disagreement over the Ireland border issue could lead to the discussions with Britain failing.

Speaking on France Inter radio, Barnier said a deal on the border issue is a “prerequisite” for a successful outcome to the divorce talks.

Barnier said avoiding a border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom is a “condition for peace and stability for this island following many tragedies.”

The Irish border will be U.K’s only land frontier with the EU after Brexit. Both sides agree there must be no hard border that could disrupt businesses and residents on both sides and undermine Northern Ireland’s hard-won peace process. But each has rejected the other side’s solution.

The EU has suggested that a back-stop solution is to keep Northern Ireland inside a customs union with the bloc, but Britain rejects that because it would mean customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. Britain has proposed instead that all of the U.K. could stay in a time-limited customs union. The EU insists there can be no time limit.

Asked whether the issue could lead to Brexit talks breaking down, Barnier said: “the answer is yes.”

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. European Union leaders are converging on Brussels for what had been billed as a "moment of truth" Brexit summit but which now holds little promise for a breakthrough. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. European Union leaders are converging on Brussels for what had been billed as a "moment of truth" Brexit summit but which now holds little promise for a breakthrough. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. European Union leaders are converging on Brussels for what had been billed as a “moment of truth” Brexit summit but which now holds little promise for a breakthrough. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Barnier added he is not certain a deal on Brexit will ultimately be reached.

“I don’t have an intimate conviction on this matter because the political situation is extremely complex in the United Kingdom,” Barnier said. “And I do not know what decision (Prime minister) Theresa May will take. I want an agreement; I’m working on it because it’s the common interest.”

Britain is set to leave the bloc on Mach 29, 2019. If there’s a deal, then a transition period to smooth the Brexit process will see Britain staying in the European single market and customs union even though it’s outside the EU’s decision-making institutions. May has suggested that any transition could be extended, albeit for only a few months beyond the end of 2020 as is currently proposed.

After leading Brexiteers accused the EU of “bullying” this week, Barnier insisted EU negotiators have not sought out to punish Britain.

“I have a great admiration for this country, we have a debt towards the United Kingdom for the solidarity they have always shown, even during the most tragic times of the 20th century,” Barnier said.

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. European Union leaders are converging on Brussels for what had been billed as a "moment of truth" Brexit summit but which now holds little promise for a breakthrough. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. European Union leaders are converging on Brussels for what had been billed as a "moment of truth" Brexit summit but which now holds little promise for a breakthrough. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. European Union leaders are converging on Brussels for what had been billed as a “moment of truth” Brexit summit but which now holds little promise for a breakthrough. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier talks to other European Commissioners before a weekly meeting at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. European Union leaders are converging on Brussels for what had been billed as a "moment of truth" Brexit summit. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier talks to other European Commissioners before a weekly meeting at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. European Union leaders are converging on Brussels for what had been billed as a "moment of truth" Brexit summit. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier talks to other European Commissioners before a weekly meeting at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. European Union leaders are converging on Brussels for what had been billed as a “moment of truth” Brexit summit. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

To be continued

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