LONDON (Reuters) -British foreign minister James Cleverly said on Tuesday he did not yet see a route for the resolution of problems with post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland.
Cleverly told a committee of lawmakers that while there was a better atmosphere around talks with the European Union on the so-called Northern Ireland protocol, it would not be easy to address all the issues.
"I don't yet see a route through that. We're still looking and if we can find one I'm very, very happy to, but those concerns are there," he said.
Technical talks resumed in early October for the first time in seven months on the protocol, the part of the Brexit deal that mandated checks on some goods moving to Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom due to the province's open land border with EU member Ireland.
Earlier on Tuesday, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he believed a deal could be done between Britain and the EU before the end of the year.
Cleverly said the two sides were working on establishing mutual trust and he hoped some issues could be resolved by looking at the "pragmatic reality" of what happens on the ground in the province rather than focusing on theoretical risks.
"A good working relationship, regular conversations, goodwill and trust are necessary but not sufficient," he told the committee.
"We shouldn't rush to the conclusion that therefore everything's about to come good, because there is still serious work to do and there are still big gaps."
(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar and Kylie MacLellan, editing by Elizabeth Piper)