Labour opposition aims to force Theresa May to publish Brexit legal advice

Education Secretary Damian Hinds speaking to host Andrew Marr

Education Secretary Damian Hinds speaking to host Andrew Marr

The broadcaster said the deal involved one overall backstop in the form of a UK-wide customs arrangement, but with deeper provisions for Northern Ireland on customs and regulations.

A Brexit deal is nearly within touching distance, Prime Minister Theresa May's de facto deputy said on Tuesday, as Britain and the European Union sought to avoid missing a deadline for approving the divorce.

The UK Prime Minister's office also confirmed that Theresa May would be conducting a cabinet meeting t 14:00 on Wednesday.

But cabinet approval could pave the way for a historic EU-UK summit in Brussels at the end of November that would finalise the agreement's text.

This would dramatically curtail the time May will have to get any agreement past a rebellious British parliament before Brexit day on March 29.

The pound dropped to 1.285 dollars from Friday's close of 1.297 on fears of the saga ending in a messy divorce that fails to establish short-term trading rules between one of Europe's biggest economies and the rest of the bloc. Johnson, the pro-EU brother of Brexit-backing former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, called for a second referendum as he said May's handling of the talks had left Britain with a choice between handing over even more sovereignty than European Union membership required, or accepting the chaos of no deal.

"Some key issues remain under discussion, in particular a solution to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland", it added in a statement.

It comes after the Tánaiste Simon Coveney said there was "still clearly work to do between the two negotiations teams".

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But at a cross-party press conference in London, Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill said: "The backstop needs to be permanent, the backstop is the only guarantee we have in this debacle, the only insurance policy we have throughout all of the Brexit mess". The issues aren't new.

In an op-ed in The Times, he wrote: "All of us want to be able to look our constituents in the eye and say that leaving the European Union will work out fine, but more and more of us, including a number in the cabinet, are now convinced we are heading for a poor outcome for the country".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last week: "There can be no expiry date and there can be no unilateral exit clause, and if it were to be either of those things, the backstop would not be worth the paper it was written on".

May's Northern Irish allies in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), strongly oppose this, arguing that it undermines the integrity of the United Kingdom.

The EU wants the United Kingdom to accept some single market rules as part of the backstop for avoiding a hard Irish border. "For this month, it's very hard to make real progress, but before Christmas I'm hoping that it will be possible", Reynders told reporters before a meeting of national ministers on Brexit in Brussels. Pro-Brexit Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith says May's "days are numbered" as prime minister if she goes ahead with it.

A witness to the meeting told the Financial Times that the chief negotiator had told the EU27 ministers that "the parameters of a possible agreement are very largely defined" and that the UK Cabinet would meet to examine them on Tuesday.

Negotiations have not concluded, but this marks a significant step forward in talks. Despite resigning as Foreign Secretary and thus having no direct knowledge of the said documents, Boris Johnson slammed the deal as "vassal state stuff".

That move fired speculation that more ministers who backed Remain in the referendum campaign could also quit.

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