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European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier welcomes Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney ahead of talks in Brussels, Belgium September 4, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir


BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier assured Ireland's foreign minister on Friday that the EU would defend Dublin's position in talks with Britain over the coming weeks.

Barnier said on Twitter that he had updated Simon Coveney on the state of play in negotiations, in which Britain is hoping to clinch a deal with Brussels next month on a range of issues including management of the Northern Irish border in order to launch a second phase of discussions focusing on a trade accord.

"Strong solidarity with Ireland," Barnier wrote. "Irish issues are EU issues."

Coveney tweeted back: "Thank u @MichelBarnier reaffirming EU solidarity with Ireland on #Brexit."

Facing a possible government collapse and new elections just at a crucial point in the Brexit process, the Irish government has sharpened the tone of its demands from London for detail on how the border will be kept open and unhindered. It has warned it will veto moves to trade talks if it is not satisfied.

(Reporting by Alastair Macdonald, editing by Elizabeth Piper; @macdonaldrtr)

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