The Taoiseach has said talks to secure a Brexit deal with the United Kingdom are "moving in the right direction", but it is "unclear" if it will be ready in time for the EU summit later this week.

Leo Varadkar said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a meeting between the two leaders last week that he was confident he could get any deal through the UK parliament.

If there is an agreement in Brussels and the House of Commons is able to vote in favour of it on Saturday, it may not be necessary to consider a Brexit extension, Mr Varadkar said.

He said there are "a few hurdles between now and then", firstly, any deal would have to be approved at European Council and then approved by the House of Commons.

The Taoiseach said what we discussed last week was the issue of customs and the wider issue of the east-west relationship.

Mr Varadkar said there had been a "broad meeting of minds" in his discussion with Mr Johnson last week.

But he added "turning that into a legal agreement is a different thing".

Mr Varadkar said he still thinks there is a significant gap between the UK and EU, particularly in the area of customs, but the situation may have changed in the last couple of hours.

He said he would be getting an updated briefing from Brussels this evening.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said that securing a Brexit deal ahead of this week's EU summit will be "difficult but doable".

The Tánaiste would not be drawn on whether the EU would grant an extension to the UK if a deal could not be reached at the summit.

"If the deal can't be done today or tomorrow in advance of the summit then the leaders will have to decide what kind of mandate to give Michel Barnier, and of course the UK will have to decide as well as to how to proceed," he said.


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The Taoiseach gave a lengthy update to Cabinet about his meeting last week with Mr Johnson.

He said he came away from the meeting convinced that the prime minister had decided that securing a deal was the best option.

The Taoiseach felt that Mr Johnson showed a good appreciation for the fragility of the situation in Northern Ireland and the need to move things on to a better place.

The discussions focused on the core issues of consent and customs.

The Taoiseach was satisfied that the discussions would move things forward to a point whereby Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay was able to hold a successful meeting with Mr Barnier the following morning, which paved the way for those discussions to get under way between the task force and the UK.

Additional reporting: Mícheál Lehane, Mary Regan