The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said on Wednesday he believed it was possible that Britain and the European Union will secure a trade deal in the coming days, putting the chances of success at around 50 per cent.
The Taoiseach has said he is doubtful of a post-Brexit trade deal, ahead of European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and British prime minister Boris Johnson's meeting for dinner Wednesday evening.
Mr Varadkar said he thought Micheál Martin's assessment that the chances of a deal were 50-50 was "absolutely correct".
"Ultimately it takes a little bit of politics at the end and both sides to move a little bit at the end. But I think that is possible," Mr Varadkar told RTÉ radio.
Mr Martin told the Irish Times he was “on the pessimistic side” regarding consensus on a free trade agreement in the coming days.
However, he welcomed the “positive and helpful” agreement reached yesterday, as the UK and EU struck a deal over the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
Following the deal, the UK government said it will pull clauses in a draft law which breach the withdrawal agreement signed with the EU last year – clauses the Irish Government previously warned would make a trade deal impossible.
Some sources in Dublin believe the UK government made the deal on the North in part to make sure the incoming US Biden administration’s concerns about Northern Ireland are “boxed off”.
This would clear the way for a US-UK trade deal, even if there is a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Martin has also told the Dáil that people should not “over-interpret” the agreement on the North as a sign that a trade deal is imminent.
He warned the situation surrounding a trade deal was “very serious” and that the House could soon be “discussing preparations for a no-deal Brexit”.
Downing Street has said Mr Johnson will use the meeting with Dr von der Leyen in Brussels tonight “to continue discussions on the future relationship” between Britain and the EU.
The European Commission has said the meeting would not be a negotiating session.
Chief Brexit negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost have outlined the remaining differences on fisheries, level playing field guarantees of fair competition and how to enforce any deal for the two leaders.
Britain’s cabinet office minister Michael Gove is set to outline to MPs on Wednesday the details of the agreement on implementing the Northern Ireland protocol.