This statement from the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier comes ahead of a crucial week in Brexit negotiations.

In a nutshell, it does not appear to weaken the stated aim of the Irish Government of ensuring there would be no hard border on the island.

However, it does give a concession to Britain. But it is a compromise which may still be unpalatable to London.

This is because Mr Barnier’s statement means that Britain could leave the customs union and single market unilaterally.

Crucially he says "the other elements of the backstop must be maintained to avoid a hard border".

This would mean Northern Ireland remaining in the single market and customs union in order to avoid any checks as vehicles travel from the Republic to the North or vise versa.

The key distinction between Mr Barnier’s message today and the previous position, is that under the Withdrawal Agreement is the island of Britain could have been trapped in a customs union if it did not conclude a deal following the transition period due to the commitment made under the backstop to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. 

Now if Britain leaves the customs union and single market there would have to be a border down the Irish Sea.

That is unlikely to fly with the Democratic Unionist Party which supports British Prime Minister Theresa May’s administration.