TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has spoken of his 'surprise and disappointment' after Britain and the EU failed to reach a deal on the Irish border issue during crucial Brexit talks in Brussels.
This afternoon, British Prime Minister Theresa May and President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker had said no deal had been reached today, but significant progress had been made.
Prime Minister May added: "On a couple of issues some differences do remain which require further negotiation and consultation."
Speaking in front of the assembled media at Government Buildings in Dublin this this evening, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said a period of intense negotiations and contact between Irish, British and EU officials today and in the last few days had made substantial progress on a number of issues including a shared commitment to the peace process, the Good Friday Agreement, protecting the north south co-operation and the continuation of the Common Travel Area, and no change to the status of Irish or British citizens living in each other's countries and respect for Ireland's continued membership of the European Union and the Custom's Union.
However Mr Varadkar added: "The most difficult issue we faced was to obtain a cast iron agreement and written guarantee that there will not be a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.
"This is not a new issue, nor has it been given greater prominence in recent weeks as some people have suggested, it has been at the forefront of Ireland's concerns since before the referendum in the United Kingdom."
Mr Varadkar also said the Irish Government did not have a hidden agenda, but their only 'guiding light' was the Good Friday Agreement.
"We do not want a border in the Irish Sea, anymore than we want a border between Newry and Dundalk or Letterkenny and Derry.
"Following the meeting this morning, the Irish negotiating team received confirmation from the British Government and the Barnier task force, that the United Kingdom had agreed a text on the border that met our concerns.
"This text would form parts of the broader EU-UK agreement on Phase 1, and would allow us all to move on to Phase 2.
"I was then contacted by the President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker, and President of the European Council Donald Tusk, and I confirmed to them both Ireland's agreement to that text.
"I am surprised and disappointed that the British Government appears now not to be in a position to conclude what was agreed earlier today.
"I accept that the Prime Minister has asked for more time, and I know she faces many challenges, and I acknowledge that she is negotiating in good faith but my position and that of the Irish Government is unequivocal, and it's supported by all of the parties in Dáil Éireann, and I believe the majority the people on these islands.
"Ireland wants to proceed to Phase 2, it's very much in our interest to do so, however we can't agree to do this unless we have firm guarantees that there will not be a hard border in Ireland under any circumstances.
"I've spoken to President Juncker again in the last hour, and he has confirmed to me that Ireland's position remians Europe's position and I still hope that this matter can be concluded in the coming days as was agreed."
An agreement is expected on the Irish border before December 14.