European Union voices concern over UK's stance on Ireland

A truck passes an anti Brexit placard at the Ireland Northern Ireland border crossing in Killeen

He added it was "lucky" that the lead Brexit negotiator for the EU was Michel Barnier, who thanks to his previous work in the European Commission had a "better understanding than many people in the EU" about how hard the issue of Ireland could be.

The EU, which will have 27 member states after Brexit, wants to solve key exit issues before opening talks about any future trade cooperation with Britain.

Committee deputy convener, Lewis Macdonald, said the Brexit talks were " historic negotiations that will have a profound impact on Scotland" as he welcomed Mr Barnier's "willingness to engage with the committee".

Discussions over Britain's exit from the European Union have also made little headway so far on the other two issues that the European Union wants resolved, namely citizens' rights and the divorce bill Britain will have to pay when it leaves the bloc in March 2019.

As for the common travel area agreement, which predates both countries' EU membership, the European commission hints again that Ireland must be able to "honour its obligations as a European Union member state".

"So, the British are really saying, 'if you don't do what we want, you are landed with the problem of trying to create a secure border in Ireland'".

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Mr Johnson spoke at the end of a bruising week in UK-EU relations, in which a former European Council president, Herman van Rompuy, put the chances of trade talks beginning in October as "in the neighbourhood of zero". "In this context, the Union should also recognise existing bilateral agreements and arrangements between the United Kingdom and Ireland which are compatible with EU law".

Agreeing on a financial settlement proves to be the biggest hurdle for the talks to move onto the second phase of negotiations - on the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the EU.

In them, the EU is expected to say the onus for solving the problems caused by the withdrawal in relation to the border - like leaving the single market and customs union - remains exclusively with the UK. Once there is sufficient progress on the principles set out in today's paper, discussions may move to the second phase of negotiations, which aim to find flexible and imaginative solutions to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Regarding the border, Barnier said that the solution will need to be unique.

Speaking in Cambridge to the British Irish Association on Saturday night, Mr Coveney said that Britain's proposals for a streamlined customs arrangement appeared to be incompatible with maintaining the integrity of the EU's single market.

I think there is a solution and we're going to get on and do it.

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