Ireland won't countenance checks on its exports at European Union ports

"The EU can not be held hostage on a long-term basis to the resolution of a political crisis in the United Kingdom", he said.

"We don't want Ireland to be a back door to the single market, anymore than anybody wants us to become a back door to the single market", Varadkar said after a meeting in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Leo Varadkar held Brexit talks with Macron this afternoon as efforts intensify to find a solution to the current impasse, while German chancellor Angela Merkel is due to meet Varadkar in Dublin on Thursday to discuss no-deal preparations.

They are also expected to discuss the forthcoming EU summit in Sibiu, Romania, as well as the European Union's budget for the period after 2020.

"We have a future to build together within the EU".

"As decided by the European council on March 22, it is up to the United Kingdom to present a credible alternative plan, backed by a majority, by April 10 to avoid it".

Speaking after her meeting with European Union leaders in the Belgian capital, Ms McDonald said the Sinn Fein leadership reiterated the necessity to continue to protect Irish interests and prevent a hard border in the event of a no-deal scenario.

But as well as Irish commitments to the EU, Varadkar said Ireland had to honour the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended sectarian conflict on the island of Ireland.

"We can not avoid failure for them - a long extension involving the UK's participation in the European elections and in the EU's institutions is far from evident".

The EU warned on Tuesday that Britain could be heading for a potentially disorderly no-deal exit in just 10 days time as Prime Minister Theresa May met with ministers to thrash out ways to break the deadlock.

But he again reiterated his opposition to creating a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, for fear that it could jeopardise peace in the British province. Macron said France and Ireland, as the UK's neighbours, were the two countries most affected by a potential no-deal exit. "However, there is still time for the prime minister to come to the European Council with proposals - proposals that are credible, and have a clear pathway to success", he said.

Mr Varadkar said any Brexit extension needed "a clear goal, clear plan".

"We need to be open to any proposals that she may bring forward to us", adding that as things stand the United Kingdom is heading towards a no-deal exit.

  • Wendy Palmer