DUP: ‘Looks like we’re heading for no-deal Brexit’

Dominic Raab has privately demanded the right to pull Britain out of EU’s Irish backstop after just three months

Reworking Theresa May's Brexit catchphrase, Barnier said: "Backstop means backstop".

However, Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, said that Dublin was open to the idea of a "review mechanism" for the backstop, which could put him in conflict with Mr Barnier. 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 EU agreed to a compromise on the backstop agreement to keep the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland last week, signalling they would accept keeping the whole of the United Kingdom in a customs union until both sides sign up to a deal that would prevent the need for a hard border.

At a weekly cabinet meeting, May told ministers she expected an agreement and wanted it as soon as possible, but it would "not be done at any cost", according to her spokesman.

The PM has secured "private concessions" from Brussels that the whole of the United Kingdom will be allowed to remain in a customs union with the EU after Brexit occurs in March, according to The Sunday Times' political editor Tim Shipman.

Mr Varadkar insisted that Britain could not decide to do that on its own.

The backstop is an arrangement that applies if the Irish border can not be kept frictionless during a wider deal.

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

It added that "the outcome of any such review could not involve a unilateral decision to end the backstop".

Work is continuing on this, he said, adding: "Don't be under any illusions that there remains a significant amount of work to do".

A gathering of European Union leaders in Brussels on the previously mooted date of November 17 is now thought to have been ruled out, while a special summit later in the month would be dependent on European Union negotiator Michel Barnier declaring that "decisive progress" has been made in talks.

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.

"What is missing is a solution for the issue of Ireland".

Responding to Ireland's rejection of a time-limit or a United Kingdom ability to unilaterally exit a backstop, the DUP's chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson warned: "Looks like we're heading for no deal".

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

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell has signalled his party will vote against the United Kingdom being in an effective customs union with the EU for a temporary period after Brexit.

Asked if Labour would vote against a customs union option unless it was permanent, Mr McDonnell told BBC2's Newsnight: 'Yeah, I think so, because... we'll see what she comes back with and we will be straight and honest with people, if it doesn't protect jobs and the economy we can't support it.

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