Northern Ireland's First Minister has said a deal between the UK and EU would be in "everyone's best interests".

There are just weeks left until the end of the Brexit transition period.

The Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit divorce deal, will see the region continue to enforce the EU's customs rules and follow its rules on product standards.

Arlene Foster said the EU Future Relations team in the Stormont Executive Office is co-ordinating readiness planning across all departments, including an option for a non-negotiated outcome.

She said the group was initially meeting on a monthly basis but is now meeting on a fortnightly basis.

"This work builds on preparations made in the lead up to a potential no-deal exit in 2019," she said.

"And while we are preparing for a non-negotiated outcome, it is important to remember that the protocol will still apply in that scenario.

"Whilst the non-negotiated outcome is very different from a no-deal Brexit, which Operation Yellowhammer was dealing with this time last year, there are similar themes and issues arising.

"A lot of preparatory work for Yellowhammer was undertaken and we're building upon that in the event of a non-negotiated outcome, and I very much hope that isn't the case."

Mrs Forster's comments come as the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said that EU fishermen will not be "sold out" in order to secure a future relationship agreement with the UK.

Mr Coveney said that while a deal was very much possible, there would be no breakthrough at this week's summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

SDLP MLA Pat Catney put concerns to Mrs Foster that even in the event of a deal being agreed, preparations are "too far behind in implementing parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol to avoid major disruption at the end of the transition period".

Mrs Foster said: "Of course the best outcome would be for an agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom so that we can move forward together."

But she said there is an acknowledgement that some issues around the movement of goods will not be ready in time.

"That's the same whether goods are coming from the Republic of Ireland through Northern Ireland into Great Britain, or indeed from other places in the European Union into Great Britain, so there have already been some ways of dealing with the pressure that is undoubtedly there," she said.

"I welcome the fact that there is that acknowledgement because it gives some certainty to our companies.

"We'll continue to work with our colleagues in the UK government to try and get more clarity for our businesses because we do recognise there is very much a need to provide clarity for our businesses and our citizens as well."

EU negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that if there is no outline of a deal before the end of October it would be difficult for member states and the European Parliament to approve it this year.

And today, after meeting EU ministers in Luxembourg, Mr Barnier stressed that much remains to be done.

"The EU will continue to work for a fair deal in the coming days and weeks," he tweeted.

In response, a UK government source accused Brussels of "using the old playbook in which they thought running down the clock would work against the UK".

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, will talk about the progress of the Brexit negotiations tomorrow afternoon, Mr Johnson's Downing Street office said today.

"They agreed to stay in touch on the progress in the negotiations when they spoke earlier this month," Downing Street said.