WATCH: Dominic Raab heaps pressure on Theresa May over Brexit backstop plans
Dominic Raab has heaped pressure on Theresa May to set out precisely how long the UK will remain in a customs union with the EU after Brexit.
The Brexit Secretary said that any deal which included such an arrangement must be "short" and "time-limited" - further than Downing Street was prepared to go just hours before.
The Prime Minister is facing the threat of Cabinet resignations over fears that a so-called "backstop" customs arrangement aimed at avoiding a hard Irish border will effectively keep the UK locked into the bloc's trading regime forever.
Speaking to ITV, Mr Raab said: “It would have to be finite, it would have to be short, and it would have to be, I think, time limited in order for it to be supported here.
“What we cannot do is see the UK locked-in via the backdoor to a customs union arrangement that would leave us in an indefinite limbo. That would not be leaving the EU.”
Brussels has said it wants Northern Ireland to stay in the EU customs union as a way of maintaining an open border with the Republic of Ireland, but that has been rejected by the UK over fears it would create a new frontier in the Irish Sea.
Mrs May has proposed keeping the whole of the UK in a customs union, but only until a trade deal can be thrashed out.
In a briefing for journalists this morning, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister refused to say whether an end date would be put on any backstop agreement, something Brexiteer Tory MPs have demanded.
She said: "When we published our plans in June for a UK-wide customs backstop, we were absolutely clear that the arrangement would be temporary and only in place until our future economic relationship was ready. Our position is that this future economic relationship needs to be in place by the end of December 2021 at the latest.
"The Prime Minister would never agree to a deal that would trap the UK in a backstop permanently."
Former Tory minister Guto Bebb, of the pro-EU People's Vote campaign, said: "The hard reality is that the Prime Minister is being forced to negotiate with Jacob Rees-Mogg and his allies in her Cabinet even more intensively than with the EU27. And that is why the ‘promise gap’ between what voters were told Brexit would mean and what is actually being delivered is growing wider all the time.
"The only Brexit deal that can now be delivered will be a bad Brexit deal. Bad for business, bad for public services and bad for young people, who will have to endure many more years more of complex Brexit negotiations, and then live with the consequences."