Rishi Sunak reiterated that “there isn’t a deal” with the EU to fix issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, but said there is “an understanding of what needs to be done”.
The UK government is making preparations to announce a new agreement on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland early next week according to reports.
Speaking in a Q&A after his speech to the Munich security conference, the Prime Minister said: “There are real issues that need resolving. The way that the protocol has been implemented, it’s causing very real challenges for families, for people, for businesses on the ground.
“We’re engaging in those conversations with the European Union all the time and we have been for a while, but what I’d say is there is still work to do.
“There are still challenges to work through. We have not resolved all these issues. No, there isn’t a deal that has been done, there is an understanding of what needs to be done.”
Mr Sunak added that “we’re working through (the issues) hard and we will work through them intensely with the EU, but we are by no means done.”
He added that the UK wishes to have a “positive constructive relationship” with Europe. He said: “The UK may have left the European Union. It didn’t leave Europe. We are a European nation. I talked in my speech about our commitment to European security.
“Of course, we want to have a positive constructive relationship with our European partners, neighbours, allies, individually, but also with the EU.”
He said that desire was evident in the response to the Ukraine war, sanctions against Russia, illegal migration and energy security.
“Those are some of the very real practical things that we are currently engaged on. That’s, I think, a sign of progress and a welcome and positive development.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has expressed his hope for a positive outcome to negotiations between the UK and EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Mr Varadkar had a phone conversation with the President of the European Council, Ursula von der Leyen, on Saturday ahead of her meeting with Rishi Sunak.