Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said that the EU's position on the Withdrawal Agreement remains unchanged.

He was speaking to reporters following a meeting Michel Barnier, the EU's Chief negotiator. "The Withdrawal Agreement is not up for re-negotiation and both Michel Barnier and I were very clear on that today," he said.

Mr Coveney said that the EU wanted to avoid a no-deal Brexit, but that this was now a matter for the next British Prime Minister.

When asked for his reaction to private EU concerns about Ireland's no-deal planning, Mr Coveney said that the Government would not compromise Ireland's place in the Single Market to avoid a hard border, nor would it risk security on the island.

"Ireland is not going to allow a situation where the Republic of Ireland effectively gets dragged out of the EU Single Market. This is a Single Market we're part of, we helped to create and we're going to stay part of and in order to do that we need to protect the integrity of the EU Single Market in Ireland, otherwise we would potentially face checks on goods leaving the Republic of Ireland going to other parts of the Single Market. 

"So that is going to involve mechanisms that is going to involve reassurance to both the European Commission and to other member states that we will protect the integrity of the shared Single Market. 

"So, we're going to do that in a way that doesn't pose a security risk or undermine a peace process on the island of Ireland and the European Commission is working with us on that."

It comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that if Brexit negotiations found a solution for the Irish border issue in the declaration on future ties between Britain and the European Union, the backstop would effectively be overwritten.

The backstop, which is contested by leading British politicians who want it changed or scrapped, requires Britain to adopt some EU rules unless a future arrangement is found to keep open the land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

The now-invisible frontier is Britain's only land border with the EU.

"The Withdrawal Agreement is the Withdrawal Agreement," Ms Merkel told a news conference.

"But the moment that a solution for the management of the border is found in (the declaration on) the future relationship - so for the European Union's future ties to Britain - which basically squares the circle - on the one hand I have no physical border but on the other hand the EU Single Market ends - that satisfies both questions, then the backstop will be overwritten, so to speak."

Ms Merkel added: "This means the task is to draft future relations that way and perhaps to draft them more specifically and better and more precisely than so far."

Then there is scope to come to an agreement and determine future relations, the chancellor said.

Ms Merkel reiterated that the Withdrawal Agreement on Brexit was carefully negotiated, adding that Britain will "remain a partner" even if it is no longer an EU member.

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The chancellor also said she has confidence that Britain will "find its way" and that work with a new British prime minister will depend on how he engages with the EU Commission.

Asked about the comment by Ursula von der Leyen on the extension of the Brexit deadline, Ms Merkel said she understood that the President-elect of the European Commission would consider it.

Earlier this week, Ms Von der Leyen said she was prepared to extend Britain's exit from the EU beyond the 31 October deadline if necessary.

"I stand ready for further extension of the withdrawal date should more time be required for a good reason," she told a confirmation hearing in the European Parliament.

Ms Merkel has also faced questions about her health following a bout of shaking episodes in the last few weeks.

She said she was fit to carry on as chancellor and that she hoped to enjoy life after serving out her fourth and final term in office through to 2021.

"I can carry out this role ... As a person, I have a strong personal interest in my health and, as I said, 2021 is the conclusion of my political work," she told a news conference, adding with a smile: "But then I hope there will be another life (after politics)."