EU chief Michel Barnier says border checks between Ireland and the North ‘unavoidable’ after Brexit

EU chief Michel Barnier says border checks between Ireland and the North ‘unavoidable’ after Brexit

THE EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has said leaving the EU single market and customs union would make Irish border checks “unavoidable”.

Speaking today after the latest round of negotiations ended, Michel Barnier said Britain’s commitment to a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ meant that new border checks would have to be installed.

"Once again it is important to tell the truth," Mr Barnier told a press conference in Brussels.

"A UK decision to leave the single market and to leave the customs union would make border checks unavoidable.

“Any solution must be precise, clear and unambiguous."

Barnier said Britain has to accept the "consequences" of its decisions.

Earlier this week, Downing Street said the UK would be leaving the customs union post-Brexit.

But Mr Barnier said the EU will prepare a draft treaty that would see Northern Ireland remain in the trading bloc.

He insisted that the EU had no choice but to begin drafting the deal because Theresa May’s government had not offered a solution to the issue of the Irish border.

Barnier added that three "substantial" disagreements remain with between Downing Street and Brussels over plans for a transition period after Brexit, adding: "If these disagreements persist the transition is not a given."

The row is the latest intensification of tensions between the powers after David Davis branded the EU “discourteous” for publishing plans which would allow it to impose sanctions on the Britain during its transition period.

In December, Number 10 said it would prevent a hard border either in an overall deal, a special deal for Northern Ireland or by continuing to follow some EU rules.

Mr Barnier said the EU must now begin legally defining how the latter would function and "there must be no ambiguity here".