Officials from Ireland and the United Kingdom visited the Irish border on Friday, discussing the Brexit backstop and the possible solutions to it. Following their visit, Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, and foreign affairs minister, and David Lidington, the UK’s Cabinet Office minister, said progress had been made in recent negotiations that could possibly resolve the backstop impasse, The Guardian reported.
Lidington, speaking to reporters after a joint meeting of the British-Irish intergovernmental conference, said the British government is standing by its commitments regarding the resolution of the Northern Irish border issue, yet is willing to resolve final difficulties as quickly as possible.
Arlene Foster, the head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – one of Northern Ireland's major parties, and which is now in coalition with the ruling Conservative party in the UK – also held a meeting with Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, who earlier on Friday visited Warrenpoint Port to see the border for himself. After the meeting, Foster announced that a deal was close, adding that there was no need to return to “the borders of the past.”
“Goodness, we have been here on a number of occasions, and I think we are close to a deal that will work for Northern Ireland. That is what we want,” she said.
The EU and UK will likely resolve the remaining Brexit issues at the EU’s special summit on November 17. The summit should determine whether the sides are ready to sign a draft of the UK’s exit bill, or whether there will be no deal at all. The UK is slated to leave the Union on March 29, 2019.