May and Varadkar discuss NI backstop as rumours swirl over Brexit deal

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However, in order for the EU to accept this compromise, Mrs May must convince her colleagues and the DUP to agree that Northern Ireland can only opt out of the customs union when another mechanism of ensuring a soft Border is agreed.

However, following a telephone conversation with Mrs May yesterday, Mr Varadkar's spokesman said Dublin would only consider a review mechanism if it was clear it couldn't be triggered by one side alone.

The backstop would kick in at the end of the transition period - which starts on 29 March and ends on 31 December 2020 - if a final deal on trade and other matters is agreed.

While European Council President Donald Tusk said in September that an extraordinary summit would be called for November 17-18 to finalize and formalize the EU-UK arrangement if sufficient progress in talks was reached, the EU leaders are now not planning this extraordinary summit.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has denounced the PM's blueprint as "an absolute stinker", arguing that the arrangement was a "national humiliation" which would leave the United Kingdom as "a vassal state, a colony".

But there are significant worries that any deal or end to the backstop that would result in a hard border could threaten the peace process.

Insisting that negotiations are "ongoing" at a technical level, the Commission's chief spokesman summed up progress by telling reporters: "Not there yet".

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire, appearing on Sky's Ridge On Sunday, was asked if a deal was close.

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Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney said that their position remains "consistent and clear" that a time-limited backstop will never be agreed to by Ireland or the EU.

Lidington also said the British government would stand by the written commitments it had already made on the backstop, which include an agreement that it would apply unless and until a better solution is found.

Mr Raab's proposal to Mr Coveney was that within three months of the backstop coming into force - or six months at the very most - Britain would have the right to trigger a "review mechanism" in which the backstop would persist only by "mutual consent".

Brexit was meant to be about taking back control.

Writing in the Sun, Mr Johnson said such a format would be "a Christmas present of the finest old Brussels fudge" meaning Britain getting "absolutely nothing in return" for an "absolutely amazing" £39 billion divorce payment.

Tell me about Ireland's border.

"We are choosing wholesale subjection". All of us who care about this island, north and south, all of us who wish to see prosperity, equality and opportunity and a decent shared future, all of us need to hold firm. Under this plan we surrender control to Brussels.

European Union diplomats said they doubted a deal could be completed in time for a tentatively scheduled summit on November 17-18, but that it could perhaps come a week later. It will not happen.

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