British Brexit minister David Frost said that his government prefers to negotiate an agreement to strengthen Northern Ireland's post-Brexit trade arrangements, and that a deal can be reached before Christmas.
Last week, Britain and the EU agreed to step up efforts to resolve issues surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol. Brussels cautiously welcomed London's shift in tone, however Frost noted that "substantial gaps" still existed.
"I think it can be done. Whether it will be done is another question, " Frost said when asked if an agreement might be reached by Christmas, as Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney suggested.
"We very much hope to be able to bring these conversations to a close, that's what we'd most like to do," he said. "But if we can't, then obviously the famous Article 16 is a very real option for us," he continued, referring to emergency safeguard measures that could lead to a trade war.
Britain left the EU last year, but has yet to implement some of the border checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK that the EU says London is required to carry out under their divorce agreement.
The checks, according to London, are disproportionate and are escalating tensions in Northern Ireland, endangering a 1998 peace agreement.
After offering to reduce some of the inspections required on goods moving from the UK to Northern Ireland, Brussels has stated that it expects London to reciprocate with its own concessions.
"The EU has made some proposals," Frost said. "At the moment, without going into detail, I'm not sure they'll solve the problems of checks and processes for goods travelling into Northern Ireland, but we'll keep talking and see if we can move this forward in a way that produces consensus."