Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government is "flexible" about the content of the backstop as long as the outcome after Brexit means there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Speaking to journalists yesterday, Mr Varadkar said: "When it comes to the backstop, our position has always been what matters is not the detailed legal text, it's the outcome and so what we want the backstop to achieve is a guarantee that there won't be a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland."

He added: "I know the UK will say that that can be achieved through the future relationship but it could take years to negotiate that future relationship treaty and we don't know for sure if that future relationship treaty will be ratified because it is likely to be a mixed treaty and any one country in Europe could potentially hold it up by not ratifying it."

He said his Government is "totally enthusiastic about solving the border question in the context of the new relationship between the EU and the UK, but that isn't enough and we have to have the backstop as well.

"We have to have that assurance that unless and until a new solution is in place, that there won't be a border. But yes, we can be flexible certainly on the content of it so long as the outcome is the one that we need."

Mr Varadkar also signaled that he intends to get power-sharing institutions up and running again in Northern Ireland in the coming months.

He said: "We would intend in the autumn some time trying again to get the parties in Northern Ireland together.

"I think the absence of any clarity around Brexit makes that very difficult but if we can have that in October, I think there is an opportunity certainly before the end of the year to get the assembly and executive up and running."