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Talks needed to find hard border solution says DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson

Solutions to avoid a hard border between the Republic and the North and a border in the Irish Sea must be found says the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson.

Time is of the essence and there is a need to focus on where the difficulty is, he told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

“We need to drill down on these issues, it would be unrealistic if there was no input from Belfast and Dublin in discussions.”

Jeffrey Donaldson

Given the seriousness of the situation and the short time left before March 29, if a no deal exit is to be avoided then it is important to have meaningful engagement, he said. It is time to talk to each other over the border. It is time for solutions.

“We need to be talking. It would be good if a meeting could take place.”

The MP for Lagan Valley added that it is important to find a solution to avoid a hard border between north and south and also east/west.

A red line in the Irish Sea would also be important to Irish beef farmers.

Any regulatory barrier east/west would cause problems for the Republic too, he said.

“Our focus is on the current withdrawal agreement and now the additional concern of the backstop.”

When asked about the car bomb in Derry over the weekend, Mr Donaldson, said that the fact that every political party had condemned it was a mark of progress.

There was a need to get the political institutions “back up and running” and the DUP has no pre conditions for forming an Executive.

Helen McEntee

Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee agreed that there was a need for solutions, but said that those who oppose the backstop were not offering any such solutions.

If the DUP wanted to meet again, the Irish Government was not going to say no, she said. However, “we can’t or won’t engage in any bilateral negotiations. This is a negotiation between the UK and the EU. We can’t engage in bilateral negotiations.

The other EU 26 are all supportive of the backstop. This is not just an issue for Ireland. This is about customs and trade. At no stage was there a suggestion that the backstop not be part of the withdrawal agreement.

Ms McEntee was adamant that there was no question of the backstop having a time limit or that the Good Friday Agreement could be amended.

“This issue is not for negotiation. I doubt any parties, north or south, would agree to that.”