President Michael D Higgins has expressed concern at the direction of the Brexit negotiations, saying that the consequences of Britain leaving the European Union had not been thought through.

Speaking at the State of the Union meeting in Florence, President Higgins said: "I am concerned. We should all be concerned at the way the talks are progressing.

"They appear to move towards points of common understanding at a certain level, and then to resile from that when it comes back to the component parts on each side.

"People accepted the democratic will of the British people but the consequences of the decision were not very forethought, therefore frankly what is being proposed suffers from that."

"The discourse is rumbling along, but it has a terminal point and you come to a point where you have to decide whether you can complete the Article 50 process within the timeframe that has been allocated."

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Separately, Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said that the Irish message to the British government on Brexit remains clear.

Acknowledging that there has been confusion on the UK side on issues such as the customs union, Mr Coveney said there was no confusion on the Irish side.

He was speaking in London where he has been meeting with British cabinet ministers and taking part in a number of cultural activities.

He said he was in London to see if there was any room for new thinking or flexibility from the British government on difficult political issues.

Mr Coveney said there needed to be real engagement between the two negotiating teams in order for solutions to be reached before an EU Council meeting in June.

Meeting that June deadline meant there needed to be clear political instruction coming from the British government in terms of what they want, he added.

Mr Coveney said the Irish Government wants to see progress on the Irish border question, to ensure there will be no re-emergence of border infrastructure of any kind on the island of Ireland.

He had what he described as a "good and straight talking" meeting with Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond earlier today.

He will also meet Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington while in London.

Minister Coveney’s visit comes as confusion continues to surround the preferred option of the British government on a customs union or customs partnership with the EU post-Brexit.

Solving that is central to the key issue of stopping a hard border on the island of Ireland.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s favoured option is understood to be one of a "customs partnership", but that is being dismissed by the more hardline Brexiteer supporters within her cabinet and government.

A meeting of the Brexit cabinet sub-committee to discuss the contentious issue is due to take place next week amid increasing speculation that some compromise is being sought within the Conservative Party on the issue.

Mr Coveney visited the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith this afternoon.

He is due to launch The Cambridge History of Ireland alongside former British prime minister John Major at the Irish Embassy this evening.

Additional Reporting: Mícheál Lehane, Fiona Mitchell