The European Commission has said it has not received an invitation from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to the environment commissioner to visit Ireland in the context of the state's derogation on EU nitrates rules.

However, a spokesperson today said that environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius "would very much be open" to travelling to Ireland if an invitation was extended by the Taoiseach.

Spokesperson Adalbert Jahnz said, however, that it would be premature to discuss amending Ireland’s derogation under the 1991 Nitrates Directive given that there had been "no improvement in water quality in Ireland".

Mr Jahnz told the European Commission midday news briefing: "A formal invitation [from the Taoiseach] has not reached the Commissioner yet. However, what I can definitely confirm is that the Commissioner would be very much open to visiting Ireland on such an invitation.

"When it comes to the question of substance on the derogation that Ireland has under the Nitrates Directive, this is something that was discussed between the Commissioner and Minister McConalogue on 4 September.

"Given that the current derogation was adopted in 2022, a year ago, and applies until the end of 2025 a discussion on amending the derogation would be premature, also because since there is no major improvement in water quality in Ireland, or any other relevant development, or new information, which could justify an amendment, this discussion would be premature," he said.

The spokesperson said that even if there were further flexibilities granted to Ireland, the levels of nitrates per hectare permitted by farmers would still be above the levels enshrined in the 1991 Nitrates Directive.

However, the IFA President said that after a brief meeting with commissioner Sinkevičius in Brussels this morning he was convinced that a renegotiation of the current derogation was still possible and that the Taoiseach had given his commitment to that effect when inviting the commissioner to Ireland.

Tim Cullinan said: "I explained again to [the Commissioner] the impact [not having] this derogation would have on our farmers. He acknowledges that, and he is awaiting the invitation from our Taoiseach to come to Dublin.

"What's important now is that everybody gets behind this and we can have a renegotiation around this to ensure the derogation can be maintained for our farmers going forward."

He said Irish farmers had taken 30 measures to improve water quality and had implemented a 15pc reduction in chemical fertiliser in the past year.

However, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue told RTÉ News that during his own meeting with Commissioner Sinkevičius it had been confirmed to him that it was "simply not going to be possible" to renegotiate the current derogation.

"The Commissioner has been crystal clear that the current derogation is not going to be renegotiated just 18 months after the commission granted it to us. So the key objective now for all of us is to be straight and honest with farmers. Time is of the essence. That's why I acted quickly to meet with the commissioner because farmers need to prepare for the first of January," he said.

It is understood Mr McConalogue wrote to the commissioner at the end of August inviting him to Ireland to meet farm groups.

However, it is understood the meeting would be to look ahead to post-2026 period, when a new derogation may be in place, and that it was not to discuss a change to the current derogation.

Officials have said the Taoiseach’s offer to the IFA last week was also in the context of the next derogation, and not to persuade the Commission to reopen the current one.