UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay met with the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barmier on Monday in Luxembourg to discuss Britain’s impending withdrawal from the bloc on 31 October.

In a brief statement following the meeting, Juncker reiterated that if the UK wants to do away with the Irish backstop – the European Union’s proposal to keep Northern Ireland in some aspects of the EU Customs Union and of the European Single Market to prevent a hard border – Johnson will have to offer a viable alternative.

Johnson’s chief negotiator David Frost has made references to “positive progress,” a view that has been confirmed by EU sources, though the latter have been quick to warn that the public should not misinterpret the cordial optimism as a sign that a breakthrough is imminent.

The British delegation appears willing to concede on the demand for an all-Ireland agri-food regime that is aligned with the EU’s regulations, which will replace the backstop.

10 Downing Street continues to maintain that without a new withdrawal agreement, the UK will leave the EU without a deal and will not ask for an extension.