Michel Barnier, the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator, and Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photograph:( Reuters )
The European Union must be prepared for the real risk that negotiations over Britain's departure from the bloc will end without a deal, the EU's Brexit negotiator said on Monday.
"In the coming months of negotiations the key point is to conclude a withdrawal agreement. We are not yet there and to be clear, not only because of the Irish/Northern Ireland border," Michel Barnier said at a conference in Ireland.
"There is a real risk and we have to be prepared for any options, including no deal. It's not my option."
Speaking to reporters on his third visit to Ireland since the referendum, Michel Barnier said he was “not optimistic” and “not pessimistic” but “determined” that the two sides can break the current impasse on talks.
But he hinted that the UK would not have to come up with the final deal for Ireland, describing the June summit as “a stepping stone” to the October deadline for the wider Brexit deal to be completed.
The Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said Britain’s “approach to negotiations will need to change in some way” if there is to be agreement over the issue.
Irish and EU negotiators are getting increasingly exasperated by what they see as Britain’s refusal to move forward on talks on the border issue before the June deadline.