Britain cannot have unilateral power to end Brexit backstop, Ireland warns May

Leo Varadkar said he has a good relationship with DUP leader Arlene Foster

Leo Varadkar said he has a good relationship with DUP leader Arlene Foster

The British government's chief legal adviser has been quietly added as a 12th member of the Cabinet sub-committee created to oversee London's Brexit negotiations with Brussels after ministers insisted they would not sign off on a deal without his advice.

According to The Daily Telegraph, the Brexit secretary "stunned" Irish officials with the suggestion.

British Prime Minister Theresa May raised the possibility of a review mechanism for the backstop in a phone call on Monday with Varadkar that she had sought to update him on the current state of the talks, the Irish government said in a statement.

The tough talk from Ireland came as shadow chancellor John McDonnell confirmed Labour would not support a temporary customs union with the EU.

The rapid pace of the negotiations requires the British government to adopt a "war cabinet" approach.

The Times also said Mrs May is on course to get an agreement on a future economic partnership that will let Britain keep open the prospect of a similar free trade accord to the one Canada has with the European Union - a move it said could help persuade the euro-sceptic Tories to back the deal.

But Britain's Conservative government and its Northern Irish ally, the Democratic Unionist Party, will not accept that because it would mean customs and regulatory checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

There appears to be a softening on the EU side to an all-UK customs union replacing the Northern Ireland specific text, but that would require an acceptance by Downing Street that it would in effect be a permanent arrangement.

If he does, other senior ministers anxious about her proposals will also get behind the deal, a person familiar with the matter said.

Ireland insists that there must be no border infrastructure, the DUP insists Northern Ireland must not be treated differently from mainland Britain, and Brexiteers say Britain must have the right to do its own trade deals after Brexit. After meeting on Friday with Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney in Dublin, British Prime Minister Theresa May's deputy David Lidington said negotiators were "very close" to an agreement.

"I am extremely confident we will reach an imminent deal", Glen told a financial services conference in London.

A deal on the Irish border to break the Brexit deadlock is not close, the EU's chief negotiator has said.

The EU has suggested that the tweaked "two-tier" backstop covering all of the United Kingdom could give mainland Britain some scope to set its own trade rules - a central demand of Brexiteers - while keeping Northern Ireland aligned with the EU.

Without such a development, sources suggested the only viable option would be to leave the deal until the leaders' summit in Brussels on 13 December.

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