The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, has said British concerns over the Northern Ireland Protocol could be addressed in the period between the passing of controversial legislation in the House of Commons and when it is dealt with by the House of Lords.
The Commons is expected to conclude its deliberations on the Internal Market Bill, which breaches the Protocol, tonight before the bill moves to the Lords.
Speaking in Brussels, Mr Coveney said: "There is a window between when this legislation moves from the Commons into the Lords. There's likely to be a break of a number of weeks between the Commons consideration and the Lords consideration of this legislation.
"That's a window that all of us should look to as an opportunity to make progress. Because if we can deal with the issues that the legislation proposes to deal with, in the absence of agreement, then it makes that legislation irrelevant."
The Internal Market Bill would give a future UK government the ability to overturn elements of the Protocol, such as the requirement for customs and regulatory checks and controls on goods moving from GB to Northern Ireland and vice versa.
The bill would also allow the UK to override effect of EU state aid law in Northern Ireland, and also its so-called reach back effect on the rest of the UK.
We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences
Speaking following a meeting of EU foreign and European affairs ministers, Mr Coveney said that if the UK and EU were successful in negotiating a free trade agreement in the coming weeks, then it would make two of the issues of concern - state aid and tariffs - less contentious, or no longer contentious at all.
However, he said the EU would not allow the Internal Market Bill, and other legislation which could undermine the Protocol, to be used as "negotiating currency" by the UK.
He added that if the Internal Market Bill remained in its current form then the EU had the option of legal action against the UK.
Mr Coveney said his ministerial colleagues were increasingly of the view that the UK may not want a deal in the future relationship negotiations.
"What has been concerning over the past couple of days for me speaking to other EU foreign ministers, is that there's a growing sense that the UK perhaps doesn't want a deal. And that this is more about managing the blame game as the negotiations fail."
However, he said he had reassured minister that he believed the UK did want an agreement.
"There remains a very strong focus on the bigger picture for the EU, which remains a future relationship between the EU and UK," he told reporters.
"The message is very clear. The EU wants a deal, but it wants a deal in terms of implementation which is consistent with the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.
"And it wants a future relationship that allows the EU and UK to work together as friends in the future."
Mr Coveney met the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier this morning.
Mr Barnier will travel to London tomorrow for informal negotiations with his opposite number, David Frost.
The British cabinet office minister Michael Gove will meet his EU counterpart Maroš Šefčovič in Brussels on Monday, under the auspices of the Joint Committee, set up by the Withdrawal Agreement.
It's understood the EU wants the Committee to continue its work on implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Discussions at Joint Committee level on how to simplify exit summary declarations had actually been in an advanced stage when the Internal Market Bill was published on September 8.
Diplomats say the EU is determined to separate the Northern Ireland Protocol issues from the future relationship negotiations, which have a deadline of October 31.
Mr Coveney said the free trade talks still needed to bridge the gap on the so-called level playing field, including state aid, fisheries and how to resolve disputes in the future. "These are the necessary foundation stones for a deal the EU wants."
On fisheries, Mr Coveney said: "If we don't have agreement on fisheries we're going to have extraordinary uncertainty in the fishing industry, both in the UK and across the EU.
He said the Internal Market Bill had meant two weeks had been "wasted".
"Many people are pretty shocked by what the British government are doing. People see the United Kingdom as in many ways the standard bearer of international law of a government that keeps its work and when it signs a deal it follows through on that.
"People have been very taken aback by a deliberate strategy coming from the British government that goes against all the of the expectations of Britain internationally."