Johnson calls for time limit on Brexit backstop

Johnson calls for time limit on Brexit backstop

Johnson calls for time limit on Brexit backstop

In her letter, Mrs May said she wanted discussions between Tory and Labour teams to start considering "alternative arrangements" to the backstop contained within the withdrawal agreement.

"The idea that you can have a customs union with the EU and at the same time, as an outside country, have an effect on EU trade policy, is to not understand the EU treaties".

And instead of a "meaningful" vote, ministers could be given another series of non-binding votes on possible Brexit alternatives by February 27 with the final vote on whether to approve or reject the deal delayed until the following month.

Mrs May sparked the furore by penning a letter to Mr Corbyn (pictured inset bottom) saying his call for the United Kingdom to stay in a customs union would hamper free trade deals - but stopped short of ruling it out.

Signing the agreement in Bern today, global trade secretary Liam Fox said: "Switzerland is one of the most valuable trading partners that we are seeking continuity for, accounting for more than £32bn worth of trade a year".

"Brexiters once promised us dozens of new trade deals would be ready to sign the instant we left the European Union, but now we know they will not even be able to keep the current deals we have as members of the EU".

While Mrs May questioned the move, describing it as "unclear", she did not reject the proposal out of hand and welcomed the Labour leader's desire to leave the European Union with a deal.

"I absolutely do not think that should be our policy", she told Sky News on Sunday. The warnings came after Treasury chief secretary Liz Truss refused to rule out resigning if Mrs May backed a customs union.

There appears little prospect of an imminent breakthrough with Brussels, and Mrs May might not bring her deal back for a decisive vote this month.

Theresa May is due to update the Commons later on the latest developments in negotiations with Brussels and Dublin, as the sides try to find a way through the impasse on measures for the Irish border.

Mr Johnson said Mrs May's priority should be to secure a time limit on the backstop - meant to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland - before the next election scheduled for June 2022. But when you look at the whole picture it's a very small comfort. But the former foreign secretary insisted the mechanism would need to expire before the next general election in 2022.

He said "there needs to be a day when Parliament says that's it, enough is enough".

Brexit minister Stephen Barclay will meet European Union negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday ahead of a crunch moment in parliament on Thursday, when lawmakers will try to force May to change course or give up control of the exit process. But Mr Barnier said "something has to give" on the British side to stop the United Kingdom crashing out.

Last week, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn set out the conditions under which he would instruct his party to support an exit deal in parliament.

May will ask lawmakers on Thursday to reaffirm that they support her bid to renegotiate the backstop, a government source said.

Meanwhile Mrs May welcomed the Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, to Downing Street for talks on Monday evening.

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