The backstop plan is hugely controversial because it would tie the UK to many EU rules and regulations indefinitely. However, with concern growing about the impact a no deal Brexit would have on the Irish economy, pressure has consequently been mounting on Mr Coveney and Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Tanaiste Mr Coveney said on Friday: “We all want to get a deal but, at the moment, nothing credible has come from the UK government in terms of alternatives to the backstop.
“If there are alternatives to the backstop that do the same job, well then let’s hear them.
“And if we can work out a deal on that basis, so be it. But it’s got to be credible.”
The conciliatory tone prompted former Dr Ray Bassett, the former Irish ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, to tell Express.co.uk: “He may be opening the door to something other than the backstop.
“However Coveney is not expert in custom arrangements and to date he has approached the issue from a purely political point of view.
“He has completely backed the Remainers and tried to thwart Brexit. He may be realising that that will not work and is preparing for a gradual change and a climbdown.”
“As the backstop is at Europe’s instigation, get on with it.
“Coveney is saying to the UK ‘solve my problem for me’.
“He can see the possibility, that Europe may be softening and is looking to save face.
“Fact: Ireland is left economically marooned by no deal.
“He has to come up with something fast. It shows.”
In Europe, there have been hints of movement on the issue, with Dutch PM Mark Rutte saying the bloc would engage with any proposal to avoid customs checks on the border provided they were “compatible” with the current withdrawal agreement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month offered UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson a 30-day deadline to come up with alternative arrangements to the backstop.
By contrast, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, said: “On the EU side, we had intense discussions with EU member states on the need to guarantee the integrity of the EU’s single market, while keeping that border fully open.
“In this sense, the backstop is the maximum amount of flexibility that the EU can offer to a non-member state.”