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Euro Parliament negotiator: ‘Up to UK to find border solution’ – BBC News

Guy VerhofstadtImage copyright

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Guy Verhofstadt is the link between EU negotiators and MEPs

The European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, has said it is up to the UK to find a way to avoid new controls on the Irish border.

This echoes the position already laid out by the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

Mr Verhofstadt is in Northern Ireland to meet political leaders at Stormont ahead of a visit to the Irish border.

He will also meet business and community leaders in the Armagh-Monaghan border area.

Mr Verhofstad is the link between EU negotiators and MEPs.

Media captionCrossing the border

He is not directly involved in the Brexit negotiations but any deal between the EU and UK will need to be approved by the European Parliament.

The former Belgian prime minister is on a two-day visit to Ireland and is expected to address a joint committee of the Irish Parliament on Thursday.

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Mr Verhofstadt will meet community leaders along the border

Mr Verhofstadt said: “The resurrection of the border problem is the consequence of the decision of Britain to leave the union.

“So it is their responsibility to come forward with solutions.”

He said he had heard it suggested that Northern Ireland could remain part of the single market and the customs union and the problem would be solved: “But the point is the UK government that has to come forward with a proposal that solves the problem.”

Media captionFarming on the border

Mr Verhofstadt also discussed his proposal that people from Northern Ireland could elect MEPs in the Republic of Ireland after Brexit.

People born in Northern Ireland are entitled to Irish, and hence EU, citizenship.

Mr Verhofstadt said there is a “fair question” about how those people will continue to participate in EU democracy.

The DUP have rejected his idea and and it was also met with scepticism when he raised it in a European parliamentary committee earlier this year.

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Irish army and police patrolling the border during the Troubles

He said “With every proposal there is scepticism, that’s normal in politics, but we are debating it.”

Mr Verhofstadt also said he did not want to speculate on reports that Theresa May could offer to pay €20bn (£18bn) into the EU budget during a two-year transitional period when she makes a speech on Friday

He said said he hoped there would be breakthrough on the financial settlement and that it would be positive if the UK government starts to discuss a figure.

The parliament’s resolution on the Brexit states that it is “especially concerned” by the impact on Northern Ireland and that is “crucial” to preserve the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.

Media captionCrossing the border

Mr Verhofstadt has previously said: “We will never accept a hard border again between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.”

Last month, he dismissed the UK’s proposals for its future customs relationship with the European Union as “a fantasy.”

The UK has said it will leave the customs union – the EU’s tariff-free trading area-after Brexit.

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The government has repeatedly said it does not want to go back to the borders of the past

It has proposed a new “innovative and untested approach” which would remove the need for any customs checks between the UK and the EU.

An alternative proposal involves a “highly streamlined arrangement” which would mean small businesses trading across the Irish border avoiding any new tariffs or paperwork.

Media captionCrossing the border

Both proposals have been met with a sceptical response by other EU leaders.

On Friday, Prime Minister Theresa May will travel to Italy to make a speech on Brexit, ahead of round of negotiations next week.

Euro Parliament negotiator: ‘Up to UK to find border solution’ – BBC News

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