Tánaiste Simon Coveney has once again reiterated that the European Union will not renegotiate the Brexit withdrawal agreement with the United Kingdom.
Writing in the Sunday Times today, Mr Coveney said there would be no withdrawal agreement without the backstop, an insurance policy to ensure that there is not a hard border on the island of Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The vote by British MPs this week to seek “alternative arrangements” to the backstop has caused "disappointment and dismay" in Ireland and Europe, Mr Coveney said, but he stated there have been no "credible" alternatives put forward as yet.
"The EU is committed to trying to agree alternative arrangements to replace the backstop," he said.
"We want a comprehensive future relationship in place by the end of 2020 so the backstop is never used. We want to get on with that work once the withdrawal agreement is ratified.
Mr Coveney said that the backstop was shaped equally by the EU and the UK, and that is is "required by all of us" to ensure the protection of the Good Friday Agreement.
"It is not an inconvenience but an international agreement that underpins relationships across these islands," he said.
"The backstop is a necessary guarantee, based on legal certainty, not just wishful thinking."
The Tánaiste said walking away from the withdrawal agreement would have serious consequences, and a time-limited or unilateral exit mechanism would just extend the uncertainty for the people of Northern Ireland.
"It is now time for the UK to keep its word, to deliver on these commitments and on its responsibilities," he said.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she is "determined" to agree on "a pragmatic solution that delivers Brexit" when she returns to Brussels for further negotiations on February 13.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph today, Mrs May said she will be "armed with a fresh mandate, new ideas and a renewed determination to agree a pragmatic solution that delivers the Brexit the British people voted for".
She said she would be "battling for Britain" to ensure that there was no hard border in Ireland.
With just 54 days until the UK's departure from the EU on March 29, Mrs May said she would "deliver Brexit on time".
She also denied that "seeking alternative arrangements for the backstop constituted 'ripping up the Good Friday Agreement'".