Ireland says EU would respond positively to British move on Brexit

The European Union would respond positively if the British government shifts its position in Brexit talks in the coming weeks as the dangers of a no-deal exit become clearer, Ireland's foreign minister said on Thursday.

The question of how to keep Ireland's border with the British region of Northern Ireland open is the key sticking point in talks to secure an orderly British exit from the EU and avoid the economic disruption of no-deal exit on Oct. 31.

To date the British government has offered "nothing that comes close" to what is needed to secure Irish and EU agreement, but British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has shown a "willingness to try and explore new approaches," Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told reporters on Thursday.

"As the discussion gets more real, and I hope more honest, I hope that will feed into the discussions that are now needed in the context of anything that can close the gaps," said Coveney, speaking at an annual meeting of his Fine Gael party.

"We will respond positively if there are suggestions and new approaches that are based on realism in terms of what will actually work," he added. "Let's wait and see what the British government brings forward."

Ireland's preferred method of keeping the border open is via a "backstop" mechanism that would ensure that either Northern Ireland or all of the United Kingdom remains in regulatory alignment with the EU after Brexit.

Asked whether the Northern Ireland-only option was dead after the British government on Tuesday said it was not seeking it, Coveney said nothing had been taken off the table.

"Really this is a matter for the British government," he said.

In parallel to the Brexit talks, the Irish government is negotiating with the European Commission about what checks it would have to impose on the border to protect the EU single market if the United Kingdom leaves without a deal.

Coveney said the talks were ongoing about imposing the "minimal level of checks that is credible", away from the border. Such implementation would likely be imposed after Britain leaves, he added.

But the moves would be temporary as an agreement on keeping the border open would be a prerequisite to any talks on a trade deal between Britain and the EU.

"We don't regard those checks that may be needed in a no-deal scenario as a permanent arrangement," Coveney said. "Not by a long shot."