Barnier 'ready to adapt' Brexit offer if Theresa May switches up her red lines
Brussels' has indicated its willingness to switch up its Brexit position if Theresa May was prepared to soften her negotiating red lines.
Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, extended what could be seen as a strategic olive branch on Friday, just as the Prime Minister was attempting to reach an agreement between warring factions within her cabinet.
"I am ready to adapt our offer should the UK red lines change," Barnier told the Institute of International and European Affairs in Brussels.
"Our objective has always been to find an agreement with the UK, not against," he said.
Barnier asked that both sides stop bickering over the Irish border and implored everyone to "de-dramatise" the issue.
However, Barnier warned that the EU would not amend its own red line on the single market, something he said was "not and never should be seen as a big supermarket; it is economic, cultural and social life, it should be developed in all its dimensions.
"The single market is our main economic public good. We will not damage it. We will not unravel what we achieved with the UK. We must find solutions that respect the integrity of the single market," he added.
The conciliatory tone of Barnier's speech could help move negotiations to the next phase.
When discussing Northern Ireland, Barnier doubled-down on his belief that a backstop solution was needed, explaining his thoughts on the need for regulatory alignment for livestock and agri-food, something the negotiator said was necessary for food safety and animal health across the border.
"We must all de-dramatise this backstop, we need to clarify how and where these controls are done, but ultimately [they are] only technical control on goods, no more, no less," Barnier said.
"Our own backstop solution would mean the limited set of EU rules would continue to apply in Ireland as it does today, which means there would be no need for checks at the border," he added.
He warned that the clock was still ticking and that the EU would need to see some "realistic and workable solutions" from Number 10.
For the first time since the vote, Barnier admitted there was still much work to be done on protecting the rights of British citizens living on the continent and non-British EU citizens residing in the UK.
"There are four or five million citizens for whom Brexit is a constant source of worry [about] whether they can continue living their lives with the same rights for the rest of their lives. This is not the end of the road and we need to remain vigilant."