The EU chief met with Leo Varadakar in the Irish capital to “take stock” of developments in London, claiming the EU “stood fully behind Ireland”. Prime Minister Theresa May and the Labour party are engaged in cross-party talks to break the Brexit deadlock in parliament – with Mrs May expected to ask the EU for an extension to Article 50. Mr Barnier urged Mrs May and Mr Corbyn to work together and to strike a deal around the Irish backstop issue, but said he would “refuse” to talk to the UK under a no deal exit “until there is an agreement for Ireland and Northern Ireland”.
But Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham Greg Hands said he was more inclined to believe the German political party Christain Democratic Union (CDU), who say they will move “quickly” to secure a deal with the UK in the case of a no deal.
Mr Hands tweeted: “Awkward that @MichelBarnier says EU wouldn’t do any quick deals with UK after No Deal Brexit – but @EPP Spitzenkandidat @ManfredWeber’s own @CDU @CSU German Euro-election manifesto says they will “quickly” move to do such deals. I believe the latter, myself.”
Speaking in Dublin alongside Taioseach Leo Varadkar on Monday evening, Mr Barnier said: “I have said many times before that we can be much more ambitious in our future relationship with the UK.
“The political declaration provides for a range of outcomes including a customs union. We are ready to make this clear if it helps and this work can be done extremely quickly.
“The aim of our meetings today was first and foremost to take stock of the latest developments in London. We all hope these [cross-party] talks will produce a positive outcome.”
But going on Mr Barnier warned: “Our goal is to protect the Good Friday Agreement, peace on this island, and the integrity of the single market. It is not an easy task but I am confident we will find operational solutions.”
“If the UK were to leave the EU without a deal, let me be very, very clear, we would not discuss anything with the U.K. until there is an agreement for Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as for citizens’ rights and the financial settlement.”
Mr Varadkar previously said of Mrs May’s request for an extension: “What we want to avoid is an extension that just allows for more indecision and more uncertainty.”
In light of recent reports of Spain and France’s harsh conditions on any kind of extension, Mr Varadkar said he believes it is “very unlikely” that one of the EU 27 states will refuse Mrs May’s request of a deal extension.