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Ireland’s prime minister is hoping for a breakthrough in the trade dispute after Brexit

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media outside the Stormont Hotel on January 12.

Brian Lawless – Pa Images | Images Pa | Getty Images

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Thursday there was no breakthrough on Northern Ireland’s post-EU trade rules, but expressed hope a deal could be reached.

“We haven’t achieved that yet. I hope we get there,” Taisach (Irish Prime Minister) Varadkar told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“I think, definitely, the prime minister [Rishi] Sunak and the British government seem very serious about coming to an agreement and settling the matter. And I think there is more flexibility on the part of the European Union, including Ireland, to reach an agreement.”

Varadkar acknowledged other issues that needed attention: “The protocol is important, but there is a war in Ukraine, there is a global recession, an energy crisis, inflation, and Europe and Britain need to work together.”

He added that “any barriers to further cooperation that we can eliminate are in the interests, I think, of everyone.”

His comments came shortly after Irish Finance Minister Michael McGrath said there was growing optimism and “welcome signs of progressaround the negotiations between Great Britain and the European Union.

“Negotiations are continuing and it seems the overall mood is better, there are more positive discussions between the EU and the UK,” McGrath told CNBC’s Jumanne Bercheche on Wednesday.

“And I think it’s in everyone’s interests that an agreement is reached quickly so that we can have free trade across the Irish Sea, between Britain and Ireland — North and South — and we protect the Good Friday Agreement and peace. ” he said.

Britain and the European Union agreed on Monday to work in “constructive and cooperative spirit” to resolve the post-Brexit trade dispute in Northern Ireland.

“Both sides discussed a number of existing problems over the past two years and the need to jointly find solutions,” said a joint statement by European Commission Vice President Marash Šefković and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley.

It comes after months of negotiations to end a bitter political row over the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of a post-Brexit trade deal that requires checks on some goods brought into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government collapsed almost a year ago when the Democratic Unionist Party left office in protest against an effective Irish Sea border.

Varadkar said Last week he hoped to reach an agreement on the protocol and restore relations with Northern Ireland’s political parties. However, he said the deal would not necessarily lead to the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive.

— CNBC’s Matt Clinch contributed to this report.

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