Brexit deal on Northern Ireland border 'very close'
A Brexit deal that will answer the so-called ‘Irish question’ is “very close”, the second most senior member of Theresa May’s government has said.
Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington travelled to Dublin today where he met Tánaiste Simon Coveney to discuss UK/Irish relations.
At a press conference afterwards, both men agreed that a withdrawal agreement can be secured in the coming weeks.
However, Mr Coveney warned that there still needs to be “some movement” on the UK side.
"I think a deal can be done but I think it's important that the commitments that have been made are followed through on in full.
"If that happens I think it's possible to ensure that we get a withdrawal agreement that can be sold on both sides of the Irish Sea,” he said.
Mr Lidington said he believed they were "very close to resolving" the outstanding issues and he reiterated the UK Government's commitment "to getting over those final difficulties" in the Brexit negotiations as soon as possible.
"I cannot emphasise strongly enough that the Prime Minister feels absolutely committed to her pledge not to have under any circumstances a hard border on the island of Ireland," Mr Lidington said.
While Mr Lidington was in Dublin, the Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab made a flying visit to Northern Ireland.
He visited two sea ports before meeting a number of local political parties.
Mr Raab heard opposing views from the two biggest parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein.
The DUP urged that there be no additional barriers between the Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK after Brexit.
Sinn Fein told him that the UK government must agree to a backstop plan which could see Northern Ireland effectively remaining in the customs union and single market.
However, Mr Raab insisted he is confident the Government can get a "good deal".
"We have made it very clear we would never sign up to anything that would threaten the economic, the constitutional, let alone the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom," he told the BBC.
Asked twice whether it had ruled out any new regulatory checks at the Irish Sea border, he said: "We are engaged in a negotiation process.
"We have made it very clear that whether it's the customs regime for the UK as a whole, or the wider economic integrity of the UK as a whole, we will not allow any proposals to be accepted that would jeopardise that, and that is the crucial thing here.
"Of course we want to maintain frictionless trade with our EU partners, but the internal market within the UK is absolutely crucial too.