UK Prime Minister Theresa May continues to prepare for Brexit by attempting to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, which she told the UK Parliament was the only deal available and which European Union representatives have made it clear they have no intention of amending further.
Having dramatically pulled a vote on her Brexit deal before Christmas, due to the prospect of a significant defeat, the Commons is nearing its so-called meaningful vote on the agreement. "The Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation", EU Council President Donald Tusk tweeted.
She added it was "quite disgraceful" to "exploit genuine fears" in Ireland that there could be a return to armed border posts along the politically sensitive frontier if a deal is not reached.
She said alternatives to the backstop had been "extensively discussed at the negotiating table". He says the willingness of Prime Minister May and more than 300 members of Parliament to vote against a deal her own government negotiated shows a lack of realism. The only thing parliament has indicated majority support for is the prevention of "no-deal", yet this is the default position on March 29th unless something can be agreed.
As the countdown continues to Britain crashing out of the union without agreement next month, Ireland is trying to cement EU support for stopping fresh attempts by London to reopen the Brexit deal.
In his comments on the radio, Hunt said it was "difficult to know" if negotiations would be taking place right till the end of March, adding he thought there had been a change in his country's political climate in recent days.
May's Brexit deal was emphatically rejected by Parliament on January 15, and in a vote Tuesday she won a mandate to go back to Brussels to change it before returning to Parliament for another try.
Irish police seized a substantial quantity of firearms and a suspected explosive device near the border with Northern Ireland on Friday as part of an investigation into the activities of militant Irish nationalist groups there.
"The withdrawal agreement will not be renegotiated", says European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, while EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says time too short to find alternative arrangement to UK's divorce deal.
Aodhan Connolly, director of the NI Retail Consortium, stressed: "Northern Ireland businesses urgently need the Government to provide greater certainty about their future trading relationship with the European Union and what they will do to make sure there is frictionless trade across Ireland".
The EU swiftly poured cold water on the plan as its leader sent a united message saying the pact would not be renegotiated.
Asked if he could be persuaded to back the prime minister's agreement, North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen said: "I wouldn't have thought so, no".
The "backstop" written into the negotiated deal is seen by European Union leaders as an insurance policy against disrupting the Irish peace process.
The Irish border issue has been the stumbling block in the EU-UK Brexit talks.
To this, Theresa May called for all parliamentary leaders to hold meetings with her so as to decide the course of things to strike a deal that would be acceptable to all.