European Union offers 12-month extension to Brexit transition deal to 2021

Boris Johnson calls for PM May to ditch Brexit border backstop

But Theresa May hopes to convince sceptical ministers, several of whom expressed concern about the idea at an informal meeting in No 10 on Thursday, that the backstop will never need to be invoked.

"But it is true that there needs to be a period, probably following the transition period that we have negotiated, before we enter into our long-term partnership, just because of the time it will take to implement the systems required".

The deal believed to be on the table involves keeping the whole United Kingdom in an "arrangement" that effectively preserves the existing EU customs union, ensuring the goods continue to move freely over the Irish land border regardless of the future trade relationship between London and Brussels.

The Guardian said House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom was also concerned about May's reported plan to accept keeping Britain in the EU customs union for an indefinite period after it withdraws.

The Downing Street spokeswoman repeated that Britain wanted a new trade deal by the end of December 2021 at the latest, although she declined to confirm the backstop would be "time-limited".

However, eurosceptics in May's Conservative party are wary of being tied to the bloc indefinitely.

"Despite all the so-called no deal planning, the Government has yet to admit that a no deal would require a raft of substantial legislation to be rushed through Parliament, crucial stop gap agreements with the European Union on matters relating to Northern Ireland and security, and the recruitment of thousands of custom officials".

Boris Johnson calls for PM May to ditch Brexit border backstop
DUP predicts 'developments' in Government's Brexit position over weekend - Virgin Media Television Xposé

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has threatened to bring down the government if the deal results in new trade barriers between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

The prime minister briefed ministers on negotiations yesterday amid speculation that the government is moving closer to a deal with Brussels.

Mrs May is scrambling to secure a deal that satisfies Brussels, her warring cabinet and the nation ahead of a crunch summit with 27 European Union leaders in Salzburg next week.

Both sides had set the October 18 summit as the deadline for a divorce deal, but the timetable is slipping, with another summit in November now looking likely.

Brexit was a "fundamental, existential issue" and "on that basis maybe some people will obviously consider their position", he said.

If a deal is done, he suggested Britain could enjoy a "deal dividend" which "should deliver us an upside in the form of higher economic growth and better outcomes".

Simon Coveney, who is also Ireland's foreign minister, directly contradicted UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab's stance on a key part of the UK's withdrawal agreement.

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