Barnier witnesses ‘secure’ Irish backstop in action on pitch
EU’s Brexit negotiator grimaces through French display on Dublin visit to watch rugby
EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier at the Ireland V France Six Nations rugby match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.
Then he added: “But then it’s a French game and he’s French so why shouldn’t he be here?”
Mr Thompson’s brother Peter, who like his brother voted Remain in the UK Brexit referendum in 2016, expressed confidence in the strength of the Irish backstop on the field of play if not in the Brexit backstop.
“I would say that the Irish backstop would be very strong and secure, and it won’t be breached by any French man,” he said.
Mr Barnier was in Dublin for a private visit to see the game with his two sons.
The three men along with their partners and family members met at a city centre restaurant before they travelled in the same car to the Aviva Stadium.
The three men were photographed alongside Irish Farmers Association president Joe Healy and his French counterpart Christiane Lambert, president of France’s farming group FNSEA after they bumped into them on their walk down Lansdowne Road towards the stadium.
There were cheers and gentle banter from some in the crowd who recognised the EU’s negotiator.
Doorstepped outside the ground, Mr Barnier said that work was ongoing as the EU and UK attempt to break the deadlock over the Brexit agreement ahead of key votes due in the House of Commons this week.
“We are still working,” he said.
Inside the stadium, Mr Barnier also met President Michael D Higgins along with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste in the VIP room at half-time. There were informal conversations too with Prince Albert of Monaco who was also in town for the game.
During the game, the negotiator, wearing neutral beige and taupe colours, appeared anxious as he was photographed grimacing at the French performance on the field.
“I just hope that he and the French have a better match plan than what’s coming out of London,” he said.
In the end, they didn’t. The Irish inflicted a convincing 26-14 defeat on the French.
Mr Barnier will be hoping for a constructive draw for all sides in this crunch week in the Brexit process.