The European Union "will stand fully behind Ireland" regardless of what happens during the Brexit process, Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, said on Monday.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin, Barnier maintained that the EU's goal was to "protect the Good Friday Agreement, peace on this island, and the integrity of the single market."
"The backstop is currently the only solution we have found to maintain the status quo on the island of Ireland," he said.
Barnier also suggested a "more ambitious" approach for the future relationship with the UK, saying the EU would be open to a customs union.
But no discussions on a future relationship could happen, he said, "until there is an agreement for Ireland and Northern Ireland", along with other elements of an agreed deal.