Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he thinks it is going to be difficult to secure a Brexit agreement by next week.

Speaking on RTÉ News he said he will "certainly work until the very last moment" to secure a deal, but not at any cost.

He said two big gaps remain with the UK proposals, around how the consent mechanism can work and customs where he said there is "a wide difference".

Asked if the Brexit language is becoming more toxic, the Taoiseach said it is "in some quarters", but added he does not "play dirty".

"I don't play dirty and I don’t think most EU leaders do either. We’ve been very straight up when the referendum happened three years ago."

Mr Varadkar added that the Budget was "of course a Brexit budget" and it makes sure Ireland is prepared for the worst case scenario and all their projections are based on that. 

He said if there is a no-deal the worst affected will be Britain and Ireland.

He said he spoke for around 45 minutes earlier today to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson by phone and both leaders re-stated their commitment to try to secure a deal so the UK can leave the EU in an orderly fashion. 

A Government spokesman said: "Both sides strongly reiterated their desire to reach a Brexit deal.

"They hope to meet in person later this week." 

The spokesman added that UK and Irish diplomats will stay in touch.

The sentiment was later echoed by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier who said that "efforts continue" to reach a Brexit deal with Britain.

He commented on the matter after a meeting with the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

"Efforts continue to find an agreement with the UK," Mr Barnier wrote on Twitter, following what he said was "a good meeting between friends", referring to Mr Coveney.

Following his conversation with Mr Barnier, the Tánaiste said there is still hope for a deal with Britain to smooth its exit from the European Union but more work needed to be done on customs arrangements to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Mr Coveney told reporters: "I don't think that things have reached an impasse. But there are certainly significant gaps."

"There is still a determination on the EU side to work to find a way of getting a deal but clearly the UK will need to move on some of the positions that were outlined last week."

Earlier, the Tánaiste said he wanted to challenge "misinformation" circulating about the Brexit process.

"There is a lot of misinformation going around today so let me say this loud and clear to everybody - the Irish Government and the EU is working flat out to achieve a deal that sees an orderly Brexit at the end of this month," he said at post-Budget press conference in Dublin.

"However, that deal cannot come at any cost. The British government has responsibilities on the island of Ireland."

Mr Coveney said Ireland wanted a fair deal and close relationship with the UK in the future.

"A no-deal Brexit will not be Ireland's choice, it will never be the EU's choice," he said.

"If it happens, it will be a decision made by the British government."


Read:
More Brexit stories


Referring to Boris Johnson's Brexit plans for the border, Mr Coveney added: "We thought that offer was a big step forward in a number of areas, but clearly, particularly in the customs area and in the consent and consultation area in the context of Northern Ireland, there was significantly more work needed.

"I think that's been borne out by the task force in terms of the work they have done in that paper as well.

"I suspect there are different views in the British system, some hardline, some wanting a deal and all I can say is that there is an ongoing conversation in Brussels and they want to contribute to that in a constructive way to try and find an outcome here that protects everybody.

"But we cannot respond to an approach that says, 'give us what we want or we leave with a no deal and everybody gets damaged'.

"This has to be on the basis of negotiation where the extent of the problems that are caused by Brexit are recognised, particularly on this island."

Mr Coveney added: "If the British government wants to remove the backstop or the Withdrawal Agreement, they have got to bring forward proposals that do the same job in the context of the border issues that are so difficult and complex.

"It's not just about trade, it's about so much more than that and anybody who understands Ireland and the politics of this island understands that.

"The Taoiseach wants to find a compromise here that works but he is not willing to be boxed into a corner and to accept proposals that are not consistent with the current Withdrawal Agreement or the outcomes of the backstop.

"He's been very clear about that and I expect an element of that briefing was to try to put pressure on Ireland and put pressure on the Taoiseach and for us, this isn't about pressure or personalities, it's about solving a problem."