1. ITV Report

NI pro-remain parties to meet EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier

The four parties have come together on several occasions to issue joint statements on Brexit. Credit: Presseye

Representatives from the four main political parties in Northern Ireland who are pro-remain are due to meet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels.

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry and Green Party NI leader Steven Agnew will also meet with the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt on Friday.

The focus on finding a resolution to the Irish border backstop is intensifying ahead of the crunch European Council summit in Brussels in a fortnight and amid ongoing uncertainty over whether a Brexit deal can be struck.

The impasse over the Irish border remains a key sticking point, with the EU and UK unable to find common ground on the shape of a legally binding 'backstop' position that would ensure free movement across the frontier, even if a wider trade deal failed to materialise.

The Prime Minister has said that she will not break up the United Kingdom in order to get a deal with the EU on Brexit.

The Northern Ireland delegation's visit follows Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s meetings with EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday. The Irish premier urged involved parties to get down to the “serious work” in this critical phase of negotiations.

He said Ireland’s objectives remain the same; protecting the common travel area, ensuring there is no hard border, protecting the rights of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland and maintaining a close trading relationship with the UK.