EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has warned there will be a hard border in Northern Ireland if Brexit talks fail to end in a deal.
Barnier said a hard border would be inevitable unless both sides struck an agreement before the December 31 deadline.
Accusing the UK of backtracking on its commitments in the Withdrawal Agreement, Barnier said: ‘If we fail we would have a hard border on the island of Ireland.
‘We don’t want that because together we want to keep peace, I think everyone agrees that it is no-one’s interest for any citizen on either side of the border for us to fail.
He added: ‘The Good Friday Belfast Agreement has to be preserved, that’s what we have to do.
‘Which means no land border, it’s a condition for peace. It’s our priority for all people to preserve that.’
Acting Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has urged the government to extend the transition period.
‘Boris Johnson can no longer cross his fingers and hope no one is paying attention to the huge Brexit mess hurtling towards us. We are running out of time,’ he said.
‘Barnier has made it clear: not enough progress has been made on negotiations.
‘We are now dangerously close to the extension deadline. It is time to do the right thing for our NHS, economy, and vital supplies of food and medicines.’
He said the government must stop ‘posturing’.
‘Johnson must extend the transition period for the maximum period possible. To entertain any other possibility would be reckless. The UK is already battling the Covid-19 pandemic and facing its biggest recession in generations. There isn’t the bandwidth to cope with crashing out of the EU too,’ he added.
Pro-EU campaigners Best for Britain said it was ‘deeply concerned’ by the outcome of the talks.
Responding to Michel Barnier’s press conference, Best for Britain CEO Naomi Smith said:
‘The lack of progress in these negotiations is deeply concerning when you consider the looming deadline for an extension to the transition period on 30 June.
‘It is incredibly important that the UK makes good on its commitments under the Northern Ireland protocol and elsewhere in the political declaration if we wish to maintain our global influence and make a success of Brexit going forward.
‘Without doing so, we face the possibility of ending the transition period at the end of the year without a deal, in the middle of the worst recession for a century.
‘And if we cannot support these commitments at this time due to the scale of the public health crisis at hand, then we must give ourselves more time by extending the Brexit transition period.’
Britian’s Brexit negotiator, David Frost, acknowledged that the talks, which were the final ones before a potentially make-or-break high-level summit later this month, had made ‘limited’ progress.
In a statement, Frost said: ‘Progress remains limited but our talks have been positive in tone. Negotiations will continue and we remain committed to a successful outcome.’