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Brexit deal: Irish government insists 'no agreement' reached

By Michelle Devane

The Irish government last night dismissed reports of a breakthrough in the Brexit negotiations as "speculation".

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A spokesman for the government said "no agreement" has been reached on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU and that "nothing had been confirmed".

He said officials in Dublin had not been formally notified of a deal being reached in Brussels.

"We're at a stage where there is still no agreement at this point in time," the spokesman said. "There is actually no agreement."

He added: "At the moment, this is only speculation."

In another sign that Dublin may not be happy, a spokesman for Ireland's deputy premier, Simon Coveney, said: "Negotiations between the EU and UK on a withdrawal agreement are ongoing and have not concluded."

He also said a "number of issues are outstanding", adding that negotiations were at an "extremely sensitive" juncture.

In the Dáil earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the language around the customs arrangement was not important, so long as Irish objectives were achieved.

"Whether it is a double backstop, a backstop to a backstop or a hybrid backstop is not the point.

"The point is having a legally binding guarantee that a hard border would not emerge between Northern Ireland and Ireland," he said.

Defending his acceptance of a review mechanism, Mr Varadkar noted that the Good Friday Agreement also has one.

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