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EU's Barnier open to other backstop solutions for Irish border

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EU's Barnier open to other backstop solutions for Irish border

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has told U.K. lawmakers that he is open to other backstop solutions for the Irish border issue, a major hurdle in talks with Britain over a divorce deal.

The U.K. is set to leave the EU in March 2019, but the two sides have yet to reach an exit agreement or define future economic and trade ties, as they are still working out differences on how to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit.

"We are open to discussing other backstops, so we can discuss this text, we can make changes to it. We are open, but whatever happens, there has to be a backstop," Barnier said Sept. 3 at the U.K. House of Commons, which released a transcript of his testimony Sept. 7.

Barnier said the EU is ready to simplify checks on goods moving between the U.K. and Ireland after Brexit, and allow these controls to be "carried out at a number of different places" and "take different forms."

"They could be dispersed. They could take place in different places, on board vessels, in ports outside Ireland, they could be done using technological means, they could be dispersed, as I said, or simplified in technological terms," Barnier told the U.K. Parliament's Exiting the European Union Committee.

A leading EU lawmaker said earlier this week that the bloc could offer new guarantees to the U.K. to win its support for a deal that avoids an Irish border dispute.

The U.K. has rejected the EU's proposal that would keep Northern Ireland in its customs union and part of the single market. Prime Minister Theresa May said the arrangement would be tantamount to pulling the province away from the rest of the U.K.