MICHEL BARNIER has hit back at claims that the Brexit agreement would break up the UK – however, secret audio from last year shows that the chief EU negotiator planned to ‘use Ireland for the next two or three years’ in the talks with the UK.
Michel Barnier’s past remarks on “using Ireland” in the Brexit talks have been raised today after the Brussels negotiator rebuked Boris Johnson’s claim that the EU would “carve up the UK”. The Prime Minister had claimed that the Northern Ireland protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement had put the integrity of the UK at risk, sparking a backlash from the EU. However, people pointed to the secretive audio recorded last year that revealed the chief EU negotiator had planned to “use Ireland” in talks with Britain “over the next two or three years”.
Mr Barnier took to Twitter to dispute Mr Johnson’s claims that the EU could impose a blockade between Britain and Northern Ireland.
This morning, Mr Barnier urged the Prime Minsiter to “stick to the facts” as he noted: “Protocol on IE/NI is not a threat to the integrity of the UK.
“We agreed this delicate compromise with Boris Johnson & his gov in order to protect peace & stability on island of Ireland.
“We could not have been clearer about the consequences of #Brexit.”
However, Brexiteers pointed to BBC footage from last year showing Mr Barnier laying out his plan to “use Ireland” to try to get the upper hand over the UK.
In the audio, Michel Barnier was filmed plotting with EU officials as he claimed there was a “strategic and tactical reason” to “use Ireland for the future negotiations”.
Filmed on the BBC’s Brexit: Behind Closed Doors, Mr Barnier said: “We are at a key point. In fact, we were ready on Friday to make this agreement but it stuck on the backstop.
“For me, there is also a strategic and tactical reason, which is to use Ireland for the future negotiations.
“Isolating Ireland, and not closing this point, to leave it open for the next two or three years.
“And in that case, we will face clearly permanent pressure on the negotiations about trade, the single market because of Ireland.
“And we have to be careful what the reaction will be of the European Council and the member states.”
Responding to Mr Barnier’s tweet this morning, people said: “You’re caught on tape saying you are going to use Ireland. Negotiating in bad faith nullifies the NI protocol. Or do you deny it is you in the video?”
Another remark read: “Using Ireland as a pawn yet again…”
One person simply asked: “Do they remember when Barnier said he would use Ireland against us?”
Another user added: “If you’re going to pretend to be righteous and concerned about Ireland, it’s probably best not to let yourself be filmed weaponising the issue for your own gain.”
One frustrated Brexiteer later tweeted: “We literally have audio and video proof of how the EU has deliberately used Ireland in the negotiations, how Barnier said all along he’d keep that issue deliberately unsolved, yet some people still believe nonsense about EU good faith.”
The tensions between the EU and UK erupted this week after the Prime Minister launched his controversial Internal Market Bill, which would rewrite parts of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Mr Johnson feared the EU would use an “extreme interpretation of the Northern Ireland protocol to impose a full-scale trade border down the Irish Sea”.
Express.co.uk have reached out for comment from the EU’s Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom.