Latest: EU Brexit Summit in November 'would be preferable', says Taoiseach

Update 4.34pm: The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said having an EU Brexit Summit in November is the preferred option.

It is unclear at the moment if final proposals from Theresa May will be presented at her cabinet meeting tomorrow.

Mr Varadkar said a deal by the end of the month is not the only option.

The Taoiseach said: "Ultimately, what we would like to be in a position to do is to have a special summit before the end of the month, but if that is not possible we do already have one pencilled in for the 13th, 14th December.

"So it's not that we absolutely have to have one by the end of November, but I think in terms of giving everyone certainty about the future and what Brexit is going to look like, that would be preferable."

Earlier: 'Still clearly work to do' on Brexit negotiations, says Tánaiste

The Tánaiste says Brexit negotiations are entering a very important week.

Simon Coveney says there is still work to do on the outstanding issues. The main one is how to avoid a hard border with the North.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also says there is no agreement yet on the issue and played down reports a deal could be close.

Speaking after a meeting of EU ministers in Brussels, Simon Coveney says there is still progress to be made.

"Clearly this is a very important week for Brexit negotiations," he said.

"The two negotiating teams have really intensified their engagement.

"The support and solidarity for that work is very strong but the issues aren't new.

"There is still clearly work to do between the two negotiating teams."

Brexit negotiations remain deadlocked over measures to prevent a hard border between the UK and Ireland.

Officials from both sides were engaged in talks which began on Sunday and lasted until 2.45am on Monday but failed to produce a decisive breakthrough.

Downing Street said that there were “substantial issues still to be overcome” in relation to the “backstop” measure aimed at ensuring the frontier between Northern Ireland and Ireland remains much the same as it is now no matter what happens in the wider Brexit trade deal.

The British Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We have made good progress in the negotiations in relation to the withdrawal agreement but there are substantial issues still to be overcome in relation to the Northern Irish backstop.”

Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier told ministers from the 27 remaining EU nations at a meeting of the general affairs council that key issues remained unresolved.

The European Council released a statement to say: “Michel Barnier explained that intense negotiating efforts continue, but an agreement has not been reached yet.

“Some key issues remain under discussion, in particular a solution to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

Germany’s Europe minister Michael Roth said: “We all know the clock is ticking and we must now come to a good outcome. We don’t have much time left.”

His French counterpart Nathalie Loiseau said: “The ball is in the British court. It is a question of a British political decision.”

A key sticking point is Mrs May’s call for a UK-wide backstop measure rather than the Northern Ireland-only provision proposed by the EU.

The lack of decisive progress in Brussels came as Mrs May’s domestic position appeared even more difficult.

Further details of the crunch Chequers meeting in July revealed a series of ministers voiced concerns about her strategy before ultimately supporting it.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Chancellor Philip Hammond were among Remain-supporting ministers who raised concerns about the Chequers plan, the BBC reported.

Mr Javid described the proposal for a common rule book with the EU for goods and agriculture as “very worrying”, while Mr Hammond questioned whether the 27 other countries in the union would accept such a plan, the broadcaster said.

Digital Desk and PA

Earlier: Bertie Ahern: 'We shouldn't agree on future Brexit relationship until we see it'

Update 8.55am: Bertie Ahern says Ireland should not agree to support any Brexit deal until we see the detail of it.

The former Taoiseach also believes issues surrounding Ireland in Brexit negotiations cannot be allowed to rumble on.

He said the way Britain has handled Brexit has been an unmitigated disaster.

Mr Ahern thinks the Irish government needs to be wary of the position of British Prime Minister Theresa May.

"Her position is if you move to a future relationship, there's no need for any backstop or no need for any special treatment in Northern Ireland, but how do we know that," he said.

"I think we need to be very careful.

We don't know what the future relationship is and we shouldn't agree anything about the future relationship until we see it.

Digital Desk

Earlier: Four parties from North in London for Brexit negotiations

Update 7am: Four parties from Northern Ireland are in London today as Brexit negotiations reach a crucial stage.

Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Alliance Party and the Green Party are in the British capital for a series of engagements.

They are due to meet UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as well as the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

The parties are expected to emphasise the importance of a backstop, aimed at avoiding a hard border, in any final Brexit deal.

It is reported a Brexit deal could be reached as early as tomorrow.

According to the Times Ireland edition, British and EU negotiators are closing in on a draft withdrawal agreement.

However, the Irish border remains the main sticking point and UK Prime Minister Theresa May is still facing division within her cabinet.

Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable is not convinced the two sides are that close to reaching a deal.

We've been told over the last two weeks that the government was in a hair breath of getting an agreement. It clearly isn't.

"There is an absolutely fundamental sticking point, which is the Irish border and we've been aware of this for at least two years," he said.

"The government hasn't progressed the issue in any discernible way."

Digital Desk

Earlier: Irish ministers head to Brussels for Brexit talks

Update 1.23am The Tánaiste and minister of European Affairs travelled to Brussels today for meetings with the General Affairs Council.

Simon Coveney and Helen McEntee will attend a meeting on Brexit and a further bilateral meeting with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Speaking on his departure for Brussels, Mr Coveney said focus is required for a satisfactory agreement.

Michel Barnier (Niall Carson/PA)

“I am looking forward to discussing the state of play in the Brexit negotiations with our EU partners and our negotiator Michel Barnier,” he said.

“Negotiations are at a very critical and sensitive stage.

“Clear and focused thinking is now required if a satisfactory agreement is to be reached.

“We want an agreement to be reached as soon as possible but urgency is required. The EU and Ireland’s position remains clear and consistent.

“The withdrawal agreement must include a legally operable backstop for avoiding a hard border that must be in place unless and until another solution is found.”

“Any review mechanism must be in line with this. All sides agree that this is essential in order to protect the Good Friday Agreement and our peace process.”

The talks come after DUP leader Arlene Foster said on Friday that she would not support British Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to have a Northern Ireland-specific backstop which would see a border down the Irish Sea.

She added that the DUP will not support that and will not be able to support the move in the British Parliament.

- Press Association

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