Dominic Raab 'wants UK to be able to pull out of Irish backstop after three months'
Dominic Raab has urged Theresa May to insist the UK must be able to pull out of any backstop deal on the Irish border after three months, it has been reported.
The Brexit Secretary's view emerged as Downing Street distanced itself from claims that Theresa May is on the verge of an agreement with Brussels.
EU negotiators have demanded an “all weather” backstop that will guarantee the Irish border can remain open in all circumstances until a future trade deal is agreed.
But Mr Raab wants Britain to have the right to unilaterally pull out of any arrangement with just three months notice and six at the most, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The Financial Times adds that he has written to the Prime Minister, calling on her to back him up in the hope the EU and the Irish government are able to accept it.
Tory MPs who worry the UK could remain tied to the EU indefinitely will be heartened by the hard line from Mr Raab, but the idea is likely to get short shrift from Brussels.
An EU source told the Telegraph: “The idea that an alternative arrangement that delivers no hard border in Ireland would be ready in three months is totally unrealistic.”
But the demand is also said to have fuelled tensions within the Government, with one source telling the FT: "There’s a bit of a view that Raab wrote the letter to give himself some cover with the eurosceptics.
"It’s the sort of letter that could be leaked at a later stage to try to show that he was pushing for a tough stance but that his advice was ignored."
Under the Raab plan, the UK would be able to trigger a “review mechanism” within up to six months of a backstop coming into force, at which point it would only be able to continue under “mutual consent”.
It comes after the Sunday Times reported that Mrs May had clinched a secret Brexit deal that will keep the UK in a customs union with the bloc to protect the border.
But the Times today says Downing Street rang around ministers yesterday insisting the reports were untrue, while the Guardian says EU officials believe there is a “50/50” chance of an Irish border deal.
LAWYERS WANT FRESH BREXIT VOTE
Elsewhere, 1,400 top UK lawyers have written to the Prime Minister to argue Brits should be allowed a second referendum on Brexit - something she has categorically ruled out.
They said voters are “entitled to know what they are voting for” and argued: “Democratic government is not frozen in time.”
But the Department for Exiting the European Union said the British people “have already had their say in one of the biggest democratic exercises this country has ever seen”.
Yesterday more than 70 business groups published a letter calling for a referendum on the final Brexit deal Mrs May brings back from Brussels.