May's NI allies upbeat after Brexit talks

Nigel Dodds of the Democratic Unionists has given an update on Brexit talks with the UK government.
Nigel Dodds of the Democratic Unionists has given an update on Brexit talks with the UK government.

The Northern Irish party crucial to UK Prime Minister Theresa May's hopes of getting her twice-defeated Brexit deal through parliament said it had good talks with ministers but differences remained over the Irish border.

The UK's divorce from the European Union has sown chaos throughout May's premiership and the Brexit finale is still uncertain.

Options include a long delay, exiting with May's deal, leaving without a deal or even another referendum.

May has essentially handed Brexit supporters an ultimatum - ratify her deal by next Wednesday or face a long delay to Brexit that would open up the possibility that Britain never even leaves.

To succeed, she must win over dozens of Brexit-supporting rebels in her own Conservative Party and importantly the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has 10 members in parliament.

"We have had good discussions. Those discussions will continue," DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said on Friday after talks with government ministers in London.

"We want to get a deal. There has been progress made.

"We don't want to leave without a deal but a lot will depend in terms of what the government can do on providing those guarantees that are necessary."

He said the British government was "very focused" on addressing the issue of the Irish backstop, an insurance policy that sets out what happens to the Irish border after Brexit.

Aimed at avoiding post-Brexit controls on the border between the UK province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland, the backstop has been a constant sticking point as May tries to push her deal through.

Many Brexiteers and the DUP are concerned it will trap the UK in the EU's orbit indefinitely, and have sought guarantees it will not.

The DUP said Dodds was returning to Northern Ireland and would be in phone contact with the government over the weekend and return to London for more talks on Monday.

Australian Associated Press