Brexit Secretary David Davis has said the lack of a Northern Ireland Executive is “slightly problematic” in terms of trying to resolve the future of the Irish border.
Mr Davis was giving evidence to a House of Lords committee on Tuesday.
He again suggested that technology and trusted traders’ schemes could help maintain a “frictionless border” when the UK leaves the customs union.
He said work had begun in these areas but was “nowhere near” a solution.
“We won’t actually have a solution to the Northern Ireland issues probably until near the end of the process, because we’ll need to know what the free trade agreement will be,” Mr Davis said.
“If it’s as we wish, a very comprehensive free trade agreement, that means you can get away with a lighter customs agreement than you normally would in which the primary new piece of information involved would be rules of origin.
“So you can see, some thought’s gone into that, too.
“So we are making best speed is all I can say – it’s not as fast as perhaps I would like, but we’re making best speed.”
Political leaders in London, Dublin, Brussels and Belfast have all said there should be “no hard border” and “no return to the borders of the past”.
However, so far there have been no firm proposals on how to achieve that when Northern Ireland is outside the customs union and single market and the Republic of Ireland remains inside.
Northern Ireland has effectively been without a devolved government for more than six months.
Its institutions collapsed amid a bitter row between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin about a botched green energy scheme.
A number of attempts to restore power-sharing have foundered.