Jean Claude Juncker insists Ireland 'not alone' in Brexit negotiations

GETTYMichel Barnier accused the UK of wanting to retain the'benefits of the EU after Brexit

The informal discussion came on the same day European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also held talks with Mr Varadkar.

"I'm strongly against any temptation to try and isolate Ireland and not to conclude a deal on Ireland".

Britain and the European Union want to keep a free flow of people and goods over the border without returning to checkpoints, symbols of the three decades of violence in Northern Ireland that was largely ended by a 1998 peace deal.

"The European Council renews its calls upon member states and all stakeholders to step up their work on preparedness at all levels and for all outcomes, ' the statement said".

On Friday President Juncker met Irish president Michael D Higgins at his official residence in Dublin's Phoenix Park.

Later this morning Mr Juncker will address the Irish parliament, the Oireachtas.

Ahead of Mr Juncker's arrival in Dublin, the Taoiseach said: "This is an important opportunity to assess the state of play in the Brexit negotiations. It remains our intention to achieve a close economic partnership that does not require the backstop to be in operation".

"Sunday's meeting isn't a mini-summit but an informal working meeting", Juncker said in a press conference with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

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European leaders meet in Brussels next week but a deal is not expected to be struck on the divorce's implications for the 300-mile border with its multiple crossing points until at least another European Council summit in the autumn.

He will also watch a demonstration of Gaelic football and hurling.

Amid an ongoing stand-off over how to maintain a free-flowing border post-Brexit, Mr Juncker assured Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that the European Union would not waver on what he made clear was a pivotal issue.

Mr Juncker will be accompanied on his engagement in Dublin this morning by Mr Barnier and European Union agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan.

"I will thank President Juncker and Michel Barnier for their ongoing support for Ireland and their show of solidarity throughout the Brexit negotiations".

Leaders of the 27 countries that will remain in the European Union after Britain leaves next year will take stock of negotiations on a withdrawal agreement and on a political declaration on what future relations with London should look like.

Britain's plan for a temporary customs "backstop" is "not acceptable" and any fall-back option can not be time-limited, the European Parliament's chief Brexit co-ordinator has told MPs.

The next opportunity for agreement would be the December summit but that would leave the rest of the Brexit timetable looking extremely tight with ratification required from both the United Kingdom and European parliaments.

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