EU to focus on Ireland in Brexit talks, says Barnier
The EU Commission's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said he will pay great attention to Ireland during the first phase of negotiations.
Mr Barnier also told reporters he will visit Ireland next week for talks on how Brexit might be implemented.
He was speaking in Brussels after the EU published its Brexit mandate.
Mr Barnier said the guidelines focused on "citizens' rights, the financial settlement and new external borders", including those in Ireland.
He said: "The UK must put a great deal of effort into these three issues into the next weeks and months and that will increase the chances of reaching a deal."
Mr Barnier has already clashed with David Davis, the UK's Brexit secretary, over the "divorce bill" to be paid by the British government when it leaves the EU.
The negotiation guidelines published by the EU stressed the need to avoid creating "a hard border on the island of Ireland, while respecting the integrity of the union legal order".
The guidelines also said that full account should be taken of the fact that "Irish citizens residing in Northern Ireland will continue to enjoy rights as EU citizens".
The document added that any Brexit agreement "should also address issues arising from Ireland's unique geographic situation, including transit of goods (to and from Ireland via the United Kingdom)".