Ireland and the European Union will “never” accept a time-limited Brexit backstop, the UK has been told.
Dominic Raab reportedly privately demanded the right to unilaterally pull the UK out of the proposed Brexit safety net after just three months.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the Brexit secretary “stunned” Irish officials with the suggestion.
Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, made clear on Monday morning that this would never be agreed.
“The Irish position remains consistent and v clear that a ‘time-limited backstop’ or a backstop that could be ended by UK unilaterally would never be agreed to by IRE or EU,” he tweeted. “These ideas are not backstops at all + don’t deliver on previous UK commitments.”
EU deputy chief Brexit negotiator Sabine Weyand moved quickly to support Coveney. “Still necessary to repeat this, it seems,” she said.
Brexit talks have been deadlocked over the so-called backstop – the fallback position that would be activated if a future EU-UK trade deal does not produce a solution that would prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Under the EU’s proposal, Northern Ireland would remain in the customs union and in the single market for goods.
But this has been rejected by London, as it would see customs checks take place between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
It has been reported that Theresa May is close to striking a backstop deal with Brussels which would keep the entire UK in a customs union.
The problem for the prime minister is a significant number of Tory MPs are not prepared to accept any backstop that does not have a time-limit. While the EU has refused to accept a backstop that does have a time-limit.
On Monday former foreign secretary Boris Johnson again denounced a mooted deal with the EU as an “absolute stinker” and urged MPs to reject it.
May is expected to brief the Cabinet on progress in talks when members gather for their weekly meeting at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday.