Sinn Fein has called on Theresa May to come up with her own solution to the Irish border issue after its leader met with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Brussels on Monday.
Mary Lou McDonald and a delegation of Irish republicans travelled to Brussels on Monday to meet with Michel Barnier for what she described as a “frank, productive and positive” meeting.
“The ball is now in Mrs May's court, the ball is now in the court of the British, who say they don't like what they have seen, they don't like the solution advanced by Europe, if they don't like that we would like to know what is their solution,” Ms McDonald said.
Giving an account of her meeting with Mr Barnier, she said: “I am happy to say we have a shared understanding that there cannot be a withdrawal agreement, much less an agreement on any future relationship between Britain and the European Union, in the absence of an answer to the Irish question.”
The meeting comes on the same day as Irish prime minister Leo Varkadar ruled out the possibility of three-way talks with Ireland, the EU and the UK – as Ms May hinted she would like last week.
Michel Barnier said he had had a “good meeting” with Ms McDonald and that it was “essential to listen to all voices in Northern Ireland”. Sources close to the Commission said the discussion mainly focused on the draft protocol, released last week, which specified keeping Northern Ireland in a “common regulatory area” with the Republic.
DUP leader Arlene Foster will meet with Mr Barnier tomorrow for a similar discussion.
The DUP is understood to have previously blocked a deal on the Irish border that would have effectively kept the province in the EU’s single market and customs union. Theresa May has relied on the DUP’s votes for a majority in the House of Commons since she blew her overall control of parliament with a snap election last year.
Mr Barnier insisted that this proposal respected the “constitutional integrity of the UK” but Theresa May warned that “no UK prime minister could ever agree” to such plans, with some Brexiteers characterising the proposal as the EU “annexing” Northern Ireland.
The EU however insisted that the legal text merely formalised what was agreed by the UK in December.
Speaking on Monday Mr Varadkar said: "There won't be tripartite or three-way talks.
"What will happen is that there will be talks between the EU 27 and the UK, and Ireland is part of the EU 27 and we're much stronger by the way as one of 27."
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