European parliament president may visit Ireland
By Cate McCurry, Press Association
European Parliament president Antonio Tajani has said he may visit Ireland to outline the parliament's support in protecting the Irish border.
Mr Tajani met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday morning ahead of a European Council meeting where he confirmed the parliament's commitment to the backstop, which he described as a "key element".
"Without an agreement on that (backstop), the European Parliament will not be able to vote in favour of the agreement," he said at a press conference.
"I may well be visiting Ireland to explain parliament's position, which is one of full support for the Republic of Ireland.
"I repeated our position on the border. We want a flexible border, we want to preserve the Good Friday Agreement but we also need to protect our health, our agri-food industry and our agricultural sector.
"Also, we have to find a way of addressing the question of the border. We have a plant health (unit) provisions operating at the moment and hopefully they can be taken up in the new relations.
"But we have to have an agreement on the backstop."
He also said he would be in favour of extending the so-called transition period in Britain leaving the European Union.
"References have been made to a third year, we will be in favour of that. Our initial proposal also mentioned a three-year transitional period," he added.