Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told a gathering in London that the Government hopes there can be substantial progress on the initial phase of Brexit negotiations so talks can start on a new relationship between the UK and EU.

Mr Kenny said the fact that the European Union has acknowledged the legal standing of the Good Friday Agreement was down to hard work that has paid off.

He was speaking at a lunch in London hosted by The Ireland Funds of Great Britain.

Brexit, he said, will be a long and complex process to which immediate answers should not be expected.

Mr Kenny reiterated the challenges that Brexit will pose to Ireland, particularly in respect of Northern Ireland and economic issues.

He said it was critically important to see devolved government restored in Northern Ireland, not least in the context of Brexit, and ensuring that the peace process is protected.

A return to a hard border could simply not be countenanced, Mr Kenny added, saying there was a lot of negotiation to take place around trading arrangements and particularly any customs regime that might apply.

Our neighbours, the UK, are among our closest friends the Taoiseach said, and while Britain is taking a different path from Ireland when it comes to the EU, the Irish Government is firmly committed to ensuring a strong and unique relationship with the UK.