The Taoiseach has repeated his appeal to the United Kingdom to use the Brexit extension granted at the EU leaders summit on Wednesday to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement governing its departure from the European Union.

Speaking in Killarney, Co Kerry, Leo Varadkar said "negotiations on other issues such as the future relationship between the UK and the EU, a free trade agreement and a security partnership should have been the subject of months of negotiations at this stage but those negotiations couldn't start because of the absence of a Withdrawal Agreement".

Mr Varadkar accepted that there is a risk if the UK is still a member of the EU after next month's European elections that the EU Parliament may have a rump of British MEPs who are intent on damaging the union from within.

However, he said there are also many really good pro-European MEPs from Britain who would be a loss to the parliament if the UK leaves.

When asked if he expected that the confidence and supply agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil would last until after the 31 October deadline if Britain remains within the EU until then, Mr Varadkar said his focus is on steering Ireland through Brexit and making sure the economy is strong and not on election planning.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's Brexit spokesperson has said his party hopes we do not have six more months of "false talks and false proposals being brought forward by politicians in Westminister".

David Cullinane said the fact that we do not have a hard Brexit crash has to be welcomed, but he warned that we are "not out of the woods yet" and a six-month extension means that we have more uncertainty.

"We have to make sure that the hard Brexiteers and those who want to tear up the Irish backstop don't win out', he said.

Mr Cullinane added that the Euopean position is "rock solid and clear and it's really over to the British Government and British politicians now to sort out what they can agree on to ensure that we can get a deal.

UK ministers hold further Brexit talks with Labour in bid to end impasse

"I sincerely hope we don't have six more months of false talks and false proposals being brought forward by politicians in Westminster. They need to get real and focus on real solutions."

Asked how has party would react if a hard Brexiteer like Boris Johnson were to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister, Mr Cullinane said: "If it is the case that we end up with a right win Tory Prime Minister that seeks to undermine the commitments that have been given to Ireland, then they need to wake up and realise that the logical outcome of that would be a greater demand for Irish unity and an ending of partition."

The Prime Minister has made clear she intends to bring her Brexit deal back to the Commons for a fourth time after EU leaders agreed to extend the Article 50 withdrawal process to 31 October.

Additional reporting Conor McMorrow, PA