EU chiefs are drawing up a plan to delay Brexit until 2021 to do away with a need for any Irish backstop.
Under the latest thinking in Brussels, Britain’s 21 month transition period after exit day on March 29 would be scrapped for continuing membership instead, The Sun reports.
The move would mean a trade deal could be agreed by the end of December 2020, leaving no need for a backstop that Brexiteers argue will trap the UK forever.
The idea to break the current deadlock is favoured by EU Council President Donald Tusk, but would be bitterly opposed by leave-backing MPs.
It emerged as Theresa May held talks with EU leaders in the margins of a desert summit yesterday in a desperate bid to show progress before the next showdown Commons vote on Wednesday.
In a positive sign for the PM, Irish leader Leo Varadkar appeared to give ground by saying he would agree to offering reassurances the backstop would be temporary.
Mr Varadkar said: “We’re happy to talk about mechanisms that might give them the assurances they need”.
But he insisted Ireland would never allow something that would ”contradict the legal reality, or the spirit of what’s been agreed“.
In his meeting with the PM last night, Mr Tusk insisted the EU would not sign off on any changes to the deal until the PM wins approval for them with a Commons majority.
PM’S DECISION SLAMMED
UK Prime Minister Theresa May sparked outrage by suggesting parliament may not be able to vote on her Brexit deal until March 12, just days before Britain leaves the EU.
The decision increases the chances that MPs will move next week to delay Brexit beyond March 29, to avoid a potentially disastrous situation where Britain exits with no agreement at all.
Mrs May had held out the possibility of a vote this week, but said on Sunday local time that she was still discussing with the EU possible amendments to the deal’s arrangements for the Irish border.
“As we’re continuing with those talks, we won’t bring a meaningful vote to parliament this week,” she told reporters as she arrived at a summit of European and Arab leaders in Egypt.
“But that will happen by March 12. And we still have it within our grasp to leave the European Union with a deal on March 29.”
Since MPs rejected her withdrawal deal last month, Mrs May has sought to address their concerns about the text’s “backstop” arrangement, which is designed to keep the border with Ireland free flowing.
She is meeting with European Council chief Donald Tusk and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the two-day summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, and her team will also return to Brussels on Tuesday.
But opposition politicians and pro-European MPs in London reacted with fury at what they believe is a deliberate strategy of delay.
Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said her move not to hold a vote this week was “the height of irresponsibility and an admission of failure”.
“Theresa May is recklessly running down the clock in a desperate attempt to force MPs to choose between her deal and no deal,” he said.
“Parliament cannot stand by and allow this to happen.”
‘RUN OUT OF ROAD’
Mrs May has refused to rule out leaving the EU with no deal, despite the risk of huge economic disruption on both sides of the Channel.
She says the only way to avoid this scenario is to support her deal — but growing numbers of MPs believe that Brexit should instead be delayed.
Three of her cabinet ministers on Saturday warned in a newspaper article that if there was no breakthrough this week then the House of Commons would vote for a delay.
“Beyond the next few days, there simply will not be time to agree a deal and complete all the necessary legislation before March 29,” they wrote.
Mrs May has promised to make a statement in the Commons on Tuesday and allow MPs on Wednesday to debate their own ideas for the way forward.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper urged politicians to support her cross-party proposal to delay Brexit, saying: “How are businesses, public services and families supposed to plan in this chaos?” Sam Gyimah, who quit as a junior minister in May’s government over her approach to Brexit, said her latest decision was “shocking”.
“We’ve run out of road. The meaningful vote can is now being kicked against the wall,” he tweeted.
After rejecting the EU withdrawal deal that Mrs May spent almost two years negotiating, MPs demanded she return seek changes to the Irish backstop.
This plan would keep Britain in a customs union with the EU after Brexit if and until another way —