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Time’s up for fresh Brexit plan to break Irish impasse

‘Focused’: Geoffrey
Cox is likely to have a
weekend of work PICTURE: EPA

BRITAIN was given a deadline of today to come up with proposals to break the Brexit deadlock ahead of crunch talks.

European Union officials reportedly ordered the government to present new suggestions after talks this week to end the impasse on the Northern Ireland backstop broke up without agreement.

With MPs preparing to vote on Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement on Tuesday, officials in Brussels were said to be ready to work through the weekend if the UK was able to present an ‘acceptable’ plan, according to the BBC.

The prime minister is today expected to say the government remains determined this weekend to secure legally binding changes to the backstop, which it will urge the EU to agree.

Mrs May is due to tell workers in Grimsby: ‘Just as MPs will face a big choice next week, the EU has to make a choice too. We are both participants.’

The European Commission confirmed that ‘technical talks’ were continuing and Jean-Claude Juncker, its president, was ‘available 24/7’ to meet Mrs May if a deal seemed close.

In the Commons, attorney general Geoffrey Cox — leading the UK negotiations — said the talks would ‘almost certainly’ carry on through the weekend. Any new documentation relating to the deal must be published by Monday.

The previous ‘meaningful vote’ in parliament was lost by a record majority of 230, with many MPs unhappy about the backstop — intended to prevent the return of a hard Irish border.

Mr Cox rejected claims the government had failed to come up with concrete proposals, insisting there had been ‘focused, detailed and careful discussions’.

But France’s Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau said the EU was still waiting for a ‘sustainable proposal’. ‘We have heard what you don’t want, we are willing to know what you want,’ she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.