Theresa May accused of Brexit 'fudge' as Government says backstop deal should end by 2022
Theresa May has been accused of a Brexit "fudge" after the Government said it "expects" a temporary deal to avoid a hard Irish border to end by 2022.
The Prime Minister agreed to insert a date into the so-called "backstop" proposal after Brexit Secretary David Davis threatened to resign if she did not.
However, the six-page document stopped short of confirming that the arrangement - which would keep Britain in the customs union if no other way is found to maintain an invisible border between Northern Ireland and the Republic - would definitely end by a set date.
It said: "The UK is clear that the temporary customs arrangement, should it be needed, should be time limited, and that it will be only in place until the future customs arrangement can be introduced.
"The UK is clear that the future customs arrangement needs to deliver on the commitments made in relation to Northern Ireland.
"The UK expects the future arrangement to be in place by the end of December 2021 at the latest. There are a range of options for how a time limit could be delivered, which the UK will propose and discuss with the EU."
On a morning of high drama, Mrs May met with Mr Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox in separate face-to-face meetings to discuss their concerns about the original backstop proposal, which did not contain any date.
A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister insisted the meetings had been "constructive", but Mr Davis dramatically returned to Mrs May's Commons office for further talks after his initial meeting failed to reach a conclusion.
A senior Government source admitted there had been "some back and forth" between the pair, but insisted a deal was finally agreed.
The Government's proposal has been delivered to Brussels, where it is expected to be rejected by EU officials.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted that the bloc would consider the UK's plans on the basis of three conditions.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: "This is another embarrassing day for the Government. The clock is ticking on the Brexit process and it is imperative that an agreement is struck which will protect jobs, the economy and ensure there is no hard border in Northern Ireland.
"Instead, with the threat of a Cabinet resignation, Theresa May has signed up to a flawed proposal which is inconsistent with her earlier commitments."
Former Labour frontbencher Jo Stevens, of the pro-EU campaign group Best for Britain, said Mrs May had "bowed to the pressure of the Brexit bully boys in her party".
"Some Brexiteers are cheering this non-win over the 'expected' leaving date," she said. "One thing which will almost certainly be time-limited is the victory party, because the EU will reject the proposal before it arrives in Brussels.
"No one comes out of this a winner. David Davis has shown how keen he is to get shot of the whole thing, the Prime Minister has only narrowly avoided a complete meltdown in her government and the country has been told via a white paper that its prosperity is being sacrificed under the altar of Brexit extremism.
"This is a fudge. We need to take control of this process and restore our global image. That's why we need a people's vote on the final deal, with an option to remain in the EU."