Government could publish proposals for post-Brexit Irish border in the next week
There is renewed hope that the government will provide proposed solutions for the thorny issue of post-Brexit Irish border arrangements as early as this week.
While Dublin has been cautious in its response to the prospect of Prime Minister Theresa May's administration finally setting out such plans, Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly said such a move would be "very welcome" as the "clock is ticking" on the Brexit talks.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that the position papers outlining the UK's approach to future customs arrangements with the EU and the Irish border could be published as early as this week in a bid to provide Brexit negotiations with momentum.
It also cited Whitehall sources who suggested the government is prepared to pay as much as £36bn as a so-called 'divorce' settlement, provided it's part of a comprehensive deal on future trade arrangements with the EU.
However, other government sources poured cold water on that suggestion last night, insisting "no such figure has been agreed".
The first phase of Brexit negotiations, which resume at the end of the month, are focused on citizens' rights, the 'divorce bill' and Ireland.
Talks on trade won't begin until after the European Union is satisfied with the outcome of these initial talks.
Last night an Irish government spokesman said it wouldn't be appropriate to comment on "speculation" in the British press.
He said Ireland is engaging in the Brexit negotiations as part of the block of 27 EU Member States led by chief negotiator Michel Barnier. The spokesman added: "As the Taoiseach said in Belfast, the Irish government will do all we can, in Brussels, in London and in Dublin, to achieve the best outcome for everyone on this island - to protect our peace, our freedom, our rights, and our prosperity."
Irish Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney welcomed the progress that's been made in Brexit negotiations to date.
He noted that the next round of talks will include further discussions on the financial package, and commented: "My officials and I will continue to work with the negotiating teams to ensure that sufficient progress is made."