A hard border in Northern Ireland must be avoided, Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament told a German newspaper on September 19.

“This is no normal border a few years ago we had violence and deaths in Northern Ireland. Any treaty put to the European Parliament must contain a ruling on how a hard border in Northern Ireland is avoided,” Weber told Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, Weber added that Britain must decide between a close partnership with links to the EU single market coupled with obligations, like the EU’s relationship with Norway, or looser ties involving a trade deal like the one with Canada.

In a separate report, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) noted that, as things stand, when Britain leaves the European Union, the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will become an external EU border.

If Britain leaves the bloc’s customs union and single market, as it says it wants to, border checks would be required.

But both London and Brussels have pledged to avoid any physical infrastructure, a so-called “hard border”.

Residents and businesses on both sides of the now largely invisible border have also emphasised the importance of maintaining the free flow of trade and passenger traffic.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier has said Brussels wants to “improve” its proposal on Northern Ireland in a bid to break the deadlock.

“We can clarify that most checks can take place away from the border, at the company premises or in the market,” he said. “We need to de-dramatise the checks that are needed.”

But the checks in ports and airports would remain, which Britain opposes, reported AFP.