The Tánaiste says EU and Ireland "could not be any clearer" on the issue

The Tánaiste has rejected claims the Government is willing to drop its demand for a "bulletproof" guarantee that the UK's exit won't lead to a hard border in Ireland

The Irish Independent reports that negotiators are willing to soften the stance on the so-called backstop to prevent the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.

The paper quotes senior Brexit sources as saying that they recognise that the UK will not be able to sign off on the backstop put forward by the EU - which would effectively keep the North in the single market and customs union after Britain leaves.

However, in a tweet this afternoon, the Tánaiste pushed back at the claims - insisting the "EU and Ireland could not be any clearer: there will be no agreement without a backstop that guarantees no hard border and delivers on UK commitments" made in December and March.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin

It comes after Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said the reports were very worrying.

“The modus operandi of the Government over every issue – you saw it this week in relation to cervical smear and the Scally Report – is to condition people in advance by spin,” he said.

“So, it is a worry that Government sources are spinning that they have to soften the position that was much vaunted last year of a bespoke back-stop for Ireland to ensure that there never could be a hard border on the island of Ireland.”

British Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier

Writing his own piece in the Irish Independent this morning, Simon Coveney said Ireland will never return to the "dark and divisive days of decades past."

“I am confident, however, that EU and UK negotiators are focused on the critical task at hand, which is agreeing a legally enforceable backstop for Northern Ireland that delivers on the UK commitments of last December and March and the guarantee of no physical infrastructure or related checks or controls.

“This is not a backstop any of us wish to ever use. Our shared hope is for a future relationship so close that the backstop is never needed.

“However, agreeing it now, as all sides are committed to doing, provides reassurance to everyone who has benefited from the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement that we are never going back to the dark and divisive days of decades past.”