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EU will not meet demands to re-negotiate backstop, insists Dutch minister

The EU will stay united on Brexit and will not meet UK demands to re-open the Withdrawal Agreement which contains the Irish border backstop.

That was the strong message from the Dutch Foreign Minister, Stef Blok, as he stood with Irish EU affairs Minister, Helen McEntee, right on the border between the Republic and the North at Carrickarnon, Co Louth.

“I’m quite confident the EU unity will be there at the end. By staying united is the only way we can get agreement with the UK,” Mr Blok told reporters. 

He was speaking amid speculation in London that Ireland is coming under EU pressure to make big concessions on the border backstop, which is designed to prevent a return of the border in Ireland after Brexit.

The Dutch minister was asked, why given long-standing friendship and EU alliances between UK and Netherlands, his government was not ready to make a gesture of help to Theresa May and her London government.

“We’ve been negotiating for two years and after such a long time it’s not reasonable to expect a totally different outcome.  We do greatly value our relationship with the United Kingdom as we do our relationship with the Irish Republic,” Mr Blok told Independent.ie.

“In a good relationship it sometimes pays to be blunt. And after such long negotiations you can’t expect a new result,” the Dutch minister insisted.

The EU affairs minister, Ms McEntee, brushed aside suggestions that the Dublin government was “scaremongering” over the threats to the North’s fragile peace from a return of the border.

Ms McEntee said the Irish Government believed that the peace brought about by the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 had taken over 20 years to build. “We need to protect the peace on this island and where possible we need to protect the all-island economy,” the EU affairs minister said.

She said the UK government and Theresa May engaged in two years of negotiations to find a solution made more difficult by their insistence on leaving the EU single market and customs union.  Those two years of talks delivered the Withdrawal Agreement with border backstop to resolve that particular problem.

“This is not about scaremongering. It’s about protecting a peace that took 20 years to build,” Ms McEntee told reporters.

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