WATCH: Dominic Raab says Brexit deal MUST be done by the end of November
Dominic Raab today set the clock ticking on securing a final Brexit deal with the EU as he said negotiations must conclude by the end of November.
The Brexit Secretary said allowing talks to drag on any longer could leave Britain in the "worst case scenario" of having secured a deal without enough time to implement it.
But he risked angering pro-Brexit Tory MPs when he revealed a so-called backstop arrangement to protect the Irish border could be agreed without a specific end date.
Theresa May was due to clinch a deal at the European Council summit in Brussels this week but was forced to leave empty handed after talks ground to a halt over the Irish border issue.
The deadlock ramps up the pressure on the Government to secure an arrangement and have it in place by the March 2019 exit date.
Asked to put a specific deadline on the talks today, Mr Raab said: “We need to have done it by towards the end of November.”
He told the Andrew Marr show any further delay could lead to “practical implications” with getting the deal through parliament and ready to go by the end of March next year.
“I think if it went any distance beyond that we would have a problem with implementing a deal and it would almost be the worst case scenario - we had a deal but we couldn’t implement it in time,” he said.
But appearing on the same show, Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: “I don’t think anybody thinks this 30 year civil war in the Tory party is going to end before Christmas.
“What we’re going to see is even if there’s a deal, the Tory party will try to rip it up next year. Some of them are already saying they’re going to do that.
“So this idea of an historic moment before Christmas in the national interest isn’t going to happen. They will not stop fighting about this.”
Meanwhile, Mr Raab insisted any backstop arrangement to keep the Irish border open would not be permanent - but revealed publicly for the first time that it might not come with a specific end date.
“It would be rather odd if we ended up in that bridging temporary mechanism without a route out - it could be time-limited, there could be another mechanism,” he said.
“I probably wouldn’t call it an ejector seat but I think there needs to be something which allows us to control how long we are there for to avoid any sense that we are left indefinitely in a sort of customs union limbo - that wouldn’t be acceptable.”
'THREE MONTH' TRANSITION EXTENSION
He said the UK could however end up extending the transition period - during which time the UK will remain tied to EU rules to smooth its withdrawal - as an alternative to a Northern Ireland backstop plan.
“I’m open minded about the possibility and no-one has taken any formal proposals but I’m open minded about using a short extension of the implementation period, let’s say three months,” he explained.
Elsewhere, Mr Raab appeared to confirm expectations that MPs will not be allowed to amend a Commons motion on the final Brexit deal before they have voted to accept or reject it.