Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he does not see any inconsistency with Theresa May’s comments today on the backstop proposed by Ireland and the EU, and what she has said previously.

Speaking this afternoon in West Cork, Mr Varadkar said the obligation to come up with a solution to Brexit remained with Britain, as the British Prime Minister had always acknowledged that the United Kingdom had created the problem. 

Mr Varadkar repeated that the onus now was to bring forward proposals that are workable. 

He said the Government is happy to talk about the wording of the backstop, but the outcome must be the same - that in all circumstances, there will not be a hard border between the north and south of Ireland.

Mr Varadkar was speaking after Mrs May gave a speech in Belfast in which she said the backstop proposed by the EU was unacceptable and would be in breach of the Good Friday Agreement. 

Mr Varadkar said Mrs May had consistently stated that she stands over her commitment, "her cast-iron guarantee", that there will not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

He said there was an obvious solution that would avoid borders between north and south and between east and west, but this would mean the UK continuing to align itself with the rules of the single market and the rules of the customs union in full, and Britain did not want that.

Mr Varadkar said he did not think Britain would crash out of the EU. 

He said he was confident a no-deal Brexit would be avoided.

Nevertheless, he said, Ireland had to prepare for that possibility, no matter how remote it is.

Mr Varadkar warned that time is short to come up with a withdrawal agreement with a transition period and a framework for a new arrangement with a backstop, and "people need to get on with it."

Mr Varadkar said Mrs May’s White Paper on Brexit was an evolution from previous positions.

He said it was not a solution, but it could be in-putted into talks. 

The Taoiseach's comments come as Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney earlier said he believes a no-deal Brexit is unlikely and that the British White Paper is a real basis for negotiations.

Simon Coveney said that Britain's White Paper is a real basis for negotiations

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Mr Coveney said the evolution of the EU's position as called for by British Prime Minister Theresa May, is possible as long as core issues of interest to the EU states are not undermined.

He said that the White Paper is the basis for real negotiations, but customs arrangements remain the most difficult matter to be resolved.

Mr Coveney said that if Britain is willing to soften its red lines, then the EU will show flexibility where it could.

He said intensive negotiations will start next week and continue throughout August between the EU and the UK.

The single market and customs unions must be protected by the EU, he said, adding that the EU must ensure that Britain does not get competitive advantage by leaving the bloc and continuing to trade with EU countries.

Earlier, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald accused Mrs May of "picking a fight" with Ireland and the EU in the speech she delivered in Belfast this morning.

Ms McDonald said she came away with "no sense of reassurance" about British plans for the border issue after meeting Mrs May earlier this morning.

She said it was a very firm and challenging meeting in which she told Mrs May that Ireland "cannot and will not be the collateral damage of the Tory Brexit".

Ms McDonald said the rhetoric from Mrs May around protecting the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts and preventing hardening of the border "is just that, and is superseded entirely by her instinct and desire" to play to the Brexiteer gallery and to the DUP.

Mary Lou McDonald met Theresa May in a 'firm and challenging meeting'

She said Mrs May rejected the accusations from Ms McDonald. 

The Sinn Féin leader said that the British government was attempting to use the border issue as its "Trojan horse" to advance its own negotiating position on the single market.

Earlier, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said Ireland was open to the possibility of an alternative backstop deal, as long as it was better than the EU's current proposal and was legally operable.

He said Ireland would not agree to anything that can be seen to undermine its participation in the single market or the economic integrity of the EU.

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Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Donohoe said: "The Irish Government is very clear that the Irish backstop must be retained for any future agreement between the EU and the UK to be put in place.

"The only thing that could replace this current form of a backstop is, number one, something which is better; number two, something which is agreed, and number three, something that would be legally operable.

"This is the view of the Irish Government and the European Union."

He said Ireland was not interested in division or separation and there were a number of elements in the UK's White Paper on Brexit that could form the basis of negotiations "that might provide a framework" for how these matters might be dealt with in the future.

During the week, the House of Commons passed a motion that would prevent Northern Ireland agreeing to have separate custom arrangements to the rest of the UK.

The move raised serious concern in Dublin with the Government stating that a withdrawal agreement cannot be agreed by the UK and EU unless there is a backstop that has a legal basis.