Merkel expresses solidarity with Ireland on Brexit

Leo Varadkar greets Angela Merkel

"It's not a questions of a big stick or us being put under undue pressure, but there are reasonable questions being asked as to how we will protect the integrity of the single market and the single union".

British Prime Minister Theresa May, whose deal to leave the European Union has been rejected in parliament three times, has turned to the opposition Labour Party in a last-ditch bid to pass the divorce terms she signed with the bloc's leaders in November.

Discussing his meeting with Mr Macron, Mr Varadkar said he was "really heartened by the enormous support" that France continued to demonstrate towards Ireland, and by Mr Macron's statement that Ireland would never be abandoned by France or by the EU.

He added: "This is an outcome that none of us wants to see".

"The reason we came up with the backstop is because it is the solution and, even in the event of a no-deal we will be saying to the UK "You still have obligations under the Good Friday Agreement, you still committed to full regulatory alignment back in December 2017 and we still want the arrangements that are in the backstop to apply", he said.

Taoiseach Mr Varadkar said that any further extension to Article 50 must have a credible and realistic way forward.

She said she could only speak for the German government and that she's aware of "what is at stake and what has to be solved", particularly in relation to Ireland.

The border issue has remained a point of contention during the Brexit impasse, as an open border on the island of Ireland is a key component of the Good Friday Agreement.

Some of the group spoke to the media during a rain-soaked press conference outside Farmleigh.

Ms Merkel grew up behind the Cold War "Iron Curtain" in East Germany.

"Matters continue to play out in London and I think we need to be patient and understanding of the predicament that they are in", he added. "She had that personal experience herself".

She said she believes Ms Merkel will take their messages to the crunch European Summit next week. She understood the passion of people, and the very personal stories people shared with her this afternoon.

Peter Sheridan, chief executive of Co-operation Ireland and a former assistant chief constable with the PSNI, who mediated the meeting, says Ms Merkel reflected on her own life growing up in East Germany.

Merkel's remarks were viewed by the media here as an important outcome of Thursday's meeting between the two leaders as well as another assurance from a heavyweight European Union member state for Ireland.

She said: "For Northern Ireland - it's not just about cross-border, it's about our relationship with the rest of Europe and that's important too".

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