The Tánaiste has said Ireland, Britain and the EU will have to have a “very serious and detailed conversation” about protecting the peace process if there is a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.
Simon Coveney was speaking after he updated the Cabinet on the Government’s contingency preparations for a potential no deal.
He said talks on protecting the peace process will have to begin “if a no deal Brexit becomes a virtual certainly” but insisted “we are not there now.”
“I think the British Government has also said that there would be a need for a very serious and detailed conversation between both Governments and the EU to look at what we can do to protect the peace process and to protect relationships on this island by avoiding physical infrastructure,” he said.
He was speaking after the UK attorney general Geoffrey Cox and Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay travelled to Brussels for further talks with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier.
Mr Barclay has previously said he and Mr Barnier were committed to 'working together to solve the backstop.'
In comments published over the weekend however, Mr Barnier again warned that the backstop would not be reversed.
He said the EU was ready to give “further guarantees, assurances and clarifications that the backstop should only be temporary.”
Minister Coveney said Ireland has always said that the backstop should only be there as a “temporary mechanism while a more permanent solution is put in place.”
He said he remains cautious over the potential for a breakthrough in the talks - adding that it is “too early to be optimistic.”
“My understanding is that the negotiations have been difficult in Brussels but I think people are using their best endeavours of trying to find a way forward so that we can maximise the chances of ratification next week in Westminster,” he said.
He said the Irish Government was ready to work with Mr Barnier “throughout the week and through the weekend if necessary” to find a solution.
"I think we are in the space are trying to provide clarification that temporary means temporary," he said.
“We have been very clear, as has the EU, as has Michel Barnier that we are not going to redraft the Withdrawal Agreement,” he said.
“That is not open for renegotiation.
“Instead we are looking at how we can provide the reassurance that the British Parliament needs so that they don’t have to fear the backstop in terms of any impact or effect that some fear might be permanent.”
At Cabinet this morning, it was agreed that nine Government ministers will “debate every element of the [Brexit Omnibus] Bill, line-by-line” in the Dáil over the coming days.
Ministers were also informed that memos aimed at preserving the Common Travel Area are now ready to be signed by the Irish and British governments.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe provided an initial update from a joint report by the ESRI and the Government on the economic impact of Brexit.
The study is due to be published next week.