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EU and Britain not yet in 'tunnel' negotiations, Irish PM says

News conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dublin

BELFAST (Reuters) - Britain and the European Union have not yet entered a more intense phase of negotiations - the so-called negotiating "tunnel" - in their talks to amend post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.

Bloomberg reported on Thursday that the two sides are preparing to enter the more intense phase of the long-standing negotiations as soon as next week, quoting people familiar with the matter.

"My understanding from my conversation with (European Commission) President (Ursula) von der Leyen is that they're not in the proverbial tunnel yet," Varadkar told reporters, referring to their phone call late on Wednesday.

"But she was very clear that she felt the best chance of success in these talks is that negotiators are given time and space and confidentiality to come to solutions."

(Reporting by Amanda Ferguson, writing by Padraic Halpin in Dublin, Editing by Kylie MacLellan)