Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has raised the prospect of the Brexit trade negotiations deadline being extended beyond the end of this year.
Speaking at Institute for International European Affairs (IIEA), the Taoiseach said striking a trade deal between the EU and the UK before the end of the year was possible but difficult.
However, Mr Varadkar noted that the Withdrawal Agreement allows for an extension if needs be.
"Now, I know the British Government has ruled that out, but it’s still there in the Withdrawal Agreement should the British Government and the EU come together in the Joint Committee and decide on an extension,” he added.
He said the EU’s future partnership with the UK must go beyond trade.
“It needs to cover a broad range of issues, including fisheries, universities, co-operation on research and economics generally,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said he was confident of getting a good deal because all sides have similar interests.
“The good news is that I don’t think the two parties - the EU on one side and Britain on the other - are all that far apart,” he said.
“We broadly agree that we want there to be no quotas, no tariffs, no taxes and the minimum amount of bureaucracy and checks as possible.
"And that’s really important particularly in Ireland for our exporters, our businesses, our agri-food sector, our rural economy and 200,000 people whose jobs depends on trade with the UK,” he added.
However, he said a failure to secure a trade deal would be a “major threat” to Ireland’s economy.