Northern Irish DUP says EU's Barnier needs to understand unionists' views

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However, her distinctly anti-EU point of view was well represented when remarks she'd made about the EU's lead negotiator, Michel Barnier, were put to him for a response.

Speaking briefly to the press outside before engaging in a private meeting he said "I am very happy to be in Newry, coming back to Northern Ireland in the context of this very very hard complex and extraordinary negotiations of Brexit".

She said he pretended to understand the issues but was "not an honest broker".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visited New-Bridge Integrated College in Loughbrickland, The Jethro community centre in Lurgan and Warrenpoint Harbour, as part of a programme which he said aimed to engage ordinary Northern Ireland people on Brexit.

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Barnier has maintained that a "backstop" option for the Irish border must remain in place.

And perhaps constructive solutions to a situation of deepening impasse which threatens a bitter return to identity politics in the North.

At the beginning of the all-island Brexit forum in Dundalk, County Louth, Mr Barnier said he knows that the so-called backstop has been the subject of "heated discussions in the UK". Some companies are seeking to bolster their defenses before Brexit, while other firms see their concerns abating about longer-term economic prospects following the agreement of a transition deal, advisers to the firms said.

Michel Barnier will meet politicians, businesspeople and cross-border groups. Their presence reflected this.

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Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, warned that Britain's "approach to negotiations will need to change in some way" if there is to be agreement over the issue.

The Taoiseach appeared to rally troops by pointing out that yet another bruising round of brinksmanship is looming large, and to get ready.

The DUP MP said Mr Varadkar is visiting parts of the region on Monday "outside of normal protocol".

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator has called for an agreement on the Irish border ahead of a summit in June. However, it remains unclear what exactly this threshold looks like, and what substantial progress means. "It is not my preference". Brexit Secretary David Davis said he agreed with Barnier on the "need to move quickly in discussions" and said the United Kingdom has put forward proposals.

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Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin spoke about the "massive contradiction at the heart of the United Kingdom government's negotiating position" - how to leave a single market and customs union and avoid creating a hard border.