The Tánaiste has warned that the European Union will not agree to a free trade agreement with the UK unless it signs up to "equivalence" in the way goods are produced in the UK and the EU.

Responding to weekend remarks by the UK Chancellor, Sajid Javid, Simon Coveney said that a "level playing field" was a pre-requisite for the EU to conclude a trade deal.

"There is no way the EU will ever sign up to a trade deal that allows tariff-free, quota-free and frictionless access to UK goods coming in to the EU if there isn't a level playing field in terms of how they're produced, because that would be unfair competition," he said on the margins of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

"Everybody understands that for the EU a big priority is a level playing field, in other words the way in which goods are produced needs to be equivalent in the UK as in the rest of the EU if there's going to be quota-free and tariff-free trade in the future, and I think everybody understands why."

The EU has insisted on a level playing field to counter fears that the UK could lower its labour, environmental and taxation standards in order to gain a trade advantage over the EU.

Over the weekend Mr Javid categorically ruled out alignment with EU rules.

"There will not be alignment, we will not be a rule taker, we will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union, and we will do this by the end of the year," he said in an interview with the Financial Times.

Mr Coveney warned that the the decisions by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to rule out an extension to the transition period beyond 31 December mean there was very little time to conclude a free trade agreement. 

"Because of the decisions the British Prime Minister has made time is going to be very short," he told reporters. "We have a lot of work to do and not very much time to do it."

The Tánaiste also reminded the British Government that a lot of work had to be done to implement the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland contained in the Withdrawal Agreement.

"Regardless of the future relationship, regardless of the potential for a future trade deal," he said, "the relationships on the island of Ireland, the guarantees that have been provided to prevent border infrastructure being necessary, require that new structures are put in place, new committees are put in place in terms of managing the trade relationship between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

"We all know what's in that Protocol. There's a lot of work to ensure that that is in place in plenty of time. Those structures need to be put in place in parallel with progressing the negotiations and discussions on a future relationships and future trade deal."