May and Varadkar discuss NI backstop as rumours swirl over Brexit deal

May and Varadkar discuss NI backstop as rumours swirl over Brexit deal

The Spectator and the BBC reported that Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox, who until now has been opposed to the backstop, conceded some ground on the issue by approving a "mutual review mechanism" that would help bring the backstop to an end.

A gathering of European Union leaders in Brussels on the previously mooted date of November 17 is now thought to have been ruled out.

Theresa May is expected to put pressure on ministers to agree to a different solution to the Irish backstop which she discussed with Leo Varadkar in an unscheduled phone call on Monday. She said that, while the United Kingdom should aim to secure a withdrawal agreement as soon as possible, this would not be done at any cost.

The prime minister told cabinet that they would have another meeting before any agreement was settled, with No 10 insiders concerned a deal should be agreed by the end of this month if it is to be voted on before the United Kingdom leaves the EU.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier stressed the United Kingdom would have to come up with a proposal that satisfied its 27 nations that its single market would not be undermined and that there was a guarantee of no hard border in Ireland.

"He recalled the prior commitments made that the backstop must apply "unless and until" alternative arrangements are agreed."
A Downing Street spokesman described Mrs May's conversation with Mr Varadkar as "constructive", adding: "They agreed that the intention was that the backstop should only be a temporary arrangement and that the best solution to the Northern Ireland border would be found by agreeing a future relationship between the United Kingdom and the EU".

Speaking in the Irish parliament on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar repeated his red lines.

Mr Raab's suggestion, made to Mr Coveney in London last week, was for Britain to be able to end the backstop unilaterally after as little as three months if it chose to do so.

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"There can be no expiry date and there can be no unilateral exit clause, and if it were to be either of those things, the backstop would not be worth the paper it was written on", he said.

"I'm open to creative solutions and creative language but we will not resile from our fundamental resolution, the backstop can not have a time limit or an exit clause", he continued.

Meanwhile she was said to be on course to approve an economic partnership with the European Union which could develop into a Canada-style free trade arrangement.

His line was echoed by the EU's deputy chief negotiator, Sabine Weyand.

A senior DUP MP has said the United Kingdom is heading for a no-deal Brexit.

A no-deal outcome, he said, "will have serious consequences for economy of Irish Republic".

"Looks like we're heading for no deal", he tweeted.

"What I'm getting from business leaders, trade union leaders and others is they want permanence, they want stability".