Barnier told 'special status' only way of protecting Derry against Brexit disaster

Lord Callanan

The so-called backstop proposal means Northern Ireland would remain in the EU's customs union until an alternative solution is found.

Dungannon councillor Kim Ashton has asked why Derry City & Strabane District Council was given prior notice of the visit of the EU's chief Brexit negotiator and alleged it was involved in putting the itinerary of the trip together.

Barnier, speaking in the Irish city of Dundalk ahead of a visit to Northern Ireland, said Foster failed to understand that he was representing the interests of the 27 countries who will remain in the European Union after Brexit and not those of the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland should be able to retain access to the EU's peace funding programme set up to support the peace process after Brexit.

He added: "I think he's minded to come up with a solution that works best for the unique scenario that we have in this region".

She said: "During his visit Michel Barnier heard the concerns of local stakeholders about the impact of Brexit and the prospect of the imposition of a hard border and the need for the north to secure special status within the EU".

Mr Barnier walked the historic walls of Derry and was shown the Bogside area of the city where British soldiers opened fire on Bloody Sunday.

Michel Barnier was greeted in Derry's historic Guildhall by Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson, who suggested that the DUP's Diane Dodds and Ulster Unionist Jim Nicholson were failing to represent the unionist people by "snubbing" Mr Barnier.

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"We need to agree rapidly by June the scope of alignment, what I call the safety controls that respect the single market", he told reporters in Dundalk, speaking alongside Mr Varadkar.

Mr Barnier said it had been "very useful and very interesting" to meet them.

"I think it's unfortunate that they haven't turned up. I shall be meeting with Michel Barnier at the earliest possible opportunity for him to debrief me on what his findings were".

"I am the negotiator for the 27".

Last week, Mrs Dodds and Mr Nicholson issued a joint statement welcoming Mr Barnier's visit but expressed disappointment that it was announced by a Sinn Féin MP.

Mrs Dodds said she met the EU negotiator regularly in the European Parliament chamber.

Mr Varadkar acknowledged some unionists were anxious that Brexit could be used to undermine Northern Ireland's union with Britain. It was also clearly still a step too far for the DUP.

"The UK has chose to leave the European policies", he said, "but we can maintain this co-operation thanks to the Interreg programme and in my view thanks to the peace programme".

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