Brexit deal latest – Theresa May in showdown with Irish PM over backstop plan which could bring down the whole Brexit deal

THERESA May today clashed with Ireland's PM over the "backstop" plan which could end up scuppering the entire Brexit deal.

The pair failed to reach an agreement on how to find a way to avoid a hard border in Ireland once the UK has left the EU.

And Brussels insiders claim Mrs May is struggling to come up with a deal which can satisfy the EU while still being acceptable to her own backbenchers.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab is understood to have written to the PM, demanding a strict time limit to the backstop which is designed to keep the Irish border open.

The minister said Britain should have the right to pull out of the backstop after just three months.

He fears that otherwise the UK could be trapped in the European customs union for good if Eurocrats decide that's the only way to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Today Mrs May spoke to Irish PM Leo Varadkar – but the pair did not agree on how the backstop should work.

A spokesman for the Irish leader said: "The Prime Minister raised the possibility of a review mechanism for the backstop.

"The Taoiseach indicated an openness to consider proposals for a review, provided that it was clear that the outcome of any such review could not involve a unilateral decision to end the backstop.

"He recalled the prior commitments made that the backstop must apply 'unless and until' alternative arrangements are agreed."

But Mrs May insisted the backstop can't be open-ended.

Her spokesman said: "In order to ensure that the backstop, if ever needed, would be temporary, the Prime Minister said that there would need to be a mechanism through which the backstop could be brought to an end."

Dominic Raab has warned the PM not to sign up to a customs unionIreland's hardline deputy PM Simon Coveney hit back at Mr Raab's suggestion today, saying: "A backstop that could be ended by UK unilaterally would never be agreed to by Ireland or the EU.

"These ideas are not backstops at all and don’t deliver on previous UK commitments."

Top Eurocrat Sabine Weyand, the EU's deputy chief negotiator, added: "Still necessary to repeat this, it seems."

Mr Varadkar said he wanted to see a deal tied up by the end of the year, but added: "A backstop with a limit or expiry date of that nature isn’t worth the paper it’s written on."

Mrs May's spokesman said: "We continue to make good progress in the negotiations but there is work still to do."

Boris Johnson today took aim at the suggestion Britain could sign up to a form of customs union with Europe.

He used an article in The Sun to urge ministers to abandon the "stinker" of a deal being considered by Mrs May.

Jacob Rees-Mogg backed him, asking this morning: "Is the Government about to abandon Brexit?"

The PM has been consulting senior ministers over the weekend, seeking to reassure them she won't sign a deal which permanently ties Britain's hands.



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No10 is playing down reports that a deal could be struck as early as this week – but officials are still keen to hold a special EU summit confirming an agreement by the end of the month.

Brussels diplomats told the Guardian the chance of Mrs May being able to get an acceptable deal were just "50/50" at the moment.

The backstop, which would see Britain staying in the customs union until both sides agree an alternative way of keeping the Irish border open, is the last remaining big issue at stake.

Met sets up £2.4m ‘No Deal safety net’ to cope if talks collapse

SCOTLAND Yard is spending £2.4million on a "No Deal safety net" to ensure police aren't damaged by Brexit, it emerged today.

Met bosses are worried that crashing out of the EU without an agreement would make it harder to monitor criminal suspects on the move around Europe.

They are setting up a new office co-ordinating contingency plans for a No Deal outcome, the Guardian reported.

Senior Met officer Richard Martin warned colleagues in a report: "On a Brexit no-deal scenario, the UK will lose access to European measures, tools and mechanisms.

"These instruments are used on a daily basis in operational policing and unless the UK can negotiate continued access to them we will no longer be able to use them.

"The loss of one or more of these measures will have significant implications for policing."

Britain and Europe have agreed to continue working closely on crime and security after Brexit.

That will allow both sides to share information about fugitive criminals and access each others' databases to fight international crime.

But the agreement could collapse if politicians fail to secure an overall withdrawal deal in the next few weeks.

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