Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said it is "difficult not to be sceptical" about the British government's stated desire of reaching a Brexit deal with the EU.

However he added the Irish Government is "convinced" that Prime Minister Boris Johnson does want to strike an agreement - even though "significant gaps" remain. 

Mr Coveney was speaking in Cork at the Fine Gael think-in, before the Dáil returns next week.

Asked about the absence to date of written proposals from the UK, on alternatives to the Northern Ireland-only backstop, Mr Coveney told journalists: "If you look at the evidence, rather than the language used, it's easy to be sceptical."

He said to date there certainly hasn't been "... any proposal that comes close to doing what the backstop does" submitted to Brussels.

However, the Tánaiste added that the job of politicians is to try, as he put it, "find a way through the fog" and added the Irish Government was convinced, following Monday's meeting between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Johnson in Dublin, that the UK does want to strike a deal. 

On the question of checks near the border, in the event of a no-deal, Mr Coveney said the Government needed to "level with the people" and not "sugarcoat anything."

He said while such checks would be necessary to protect the Single Market, they would be a "temporary arrangement" until a trade deal was ultimately struck with the UK. 

On a possible role for the Northern Ireland Assembly in determining the application of the backstop, the Tánaiste said such a provision would need to be robust, legally sound, and protect the Single Market. 

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Coveney said efforts would intensify over the coming weeks and that there was a lot of work to do before we are in the space of a no-deal.

He said he hopes that as the threat from no-deal becomes more real in the UK, the "debate will become more honest".

Asked if the Northern Ireland only backstop option is off the table, he said it is not off the table from the Irish side.

He added that he did not see border checks after a no-deal Brexit as a permanent arrangement, "not by a long shot".

He said he is still in talks with the EU about "minimal checks possible" after a no-deal; but the timeline for implementation would clearly spill beyond the exit date of 31 October.


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