May finds cabinet compromise with Brexit fall-back plan

GETTY•CHANNEL 4Brexit news Bernard Henri Levy said Britain will become

GETTY•CHANNEL 4Brexit news Bernard Henri Levy said Britain will become

The EU then translated the "backstop" into a legal text - but hardened it to make clear Northern Ireland would be fully within the EU customs union and single market.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier has said Prime Minister Theresa May's proposals for a backstop customs arrangement in Northern Ireland raise a series of "difficult" questions.

Amid rumours of resignation, Mr Davis remained in his role after Westminster was plunged into chaos at the prospect of offering an indefinite backstop - which has since been made time-limited but with no fixed end date.

May's government is divided over two alternatives regarding which customs arrangement to seek with the European Union after the end of a transitional period created to bridge Britain out of the bloc, which ends in 2020.

Thursday's deal may have prevented Davis from resigning, but there was no guarantee Europe would be accepting it.

"Our backstop can not be extended to the whole of the UK", Barnier said.

May's proposal would align British trade rules with those of the European Union until a permanent deal is worked out, and the government said Thursday that it expects such an agreement to be in place "by the end of December 2021 at the latest".

But, during a combative appearance at a press conference in Brussels on Friday, Mr Barnier told the United Kingdom that putting a limit on the length of a backstop proposal was not acceptable to the EU.

Thursday's row was another sign of May's difficulties keeping her ministers and the governing Conservative Party in agreement as she drives exit negotiations with the European Union.

Mr Barnier said: "Let me be clear, our backstop can not be extended to the whole of the United Kingdom".

"We must also remember that the backstop will only be used as a last resort". Potential barriers to global trade were thrown up by the Government's decision to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market, he claimed.

The government decided not to change an amendment that would force it to try to negotiate a customs union with the EU that is shaping up to be the most contentious vote in parliament next week, an official with the opposition Labour Party said.

Mr Barnier insisted that he is not discouraged and said that he will hold talks with David Davis on Monday to discuss the proposal.

"After weeks of the government negotiating with itself, the fudged document they have produced doesn't engage with any of the key Brexit dilemmas", said opposition Labour MP Chris Leslie.

'The Commission's proposals did not achieve this, which is why we have put forward our own backstop solutions for customs.

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