Ireland has made clear it will "never accept" a Brexit deal that allows the UK to unilaterally end a Northern Ireland "backstop".

On his Twitter account, Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, said a "time-limited backstop" to the Irish border that could be ended unilaterally by the UK "would never be agreed to" by the Republic of Ireland or the EU.

It comes following reports that Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, privately demanded the right to pull Britain out of the EU's proposed backstop after just three months.

On Monday, Theresa May also held a phone call with Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, who said he was open to a "review" mechanism for the backstop.

Ms May told her counterpart she was still committed to a full backstop, despite Mr Raab’s comments.

Speaking earlier in Dublin Mr Varadkar had said a time-limited backstop as suggested by Mr Raab would not be worth the paper it was written on.

“As a government we’re working very hard to get an agreement, ideally by the end of the year, but you know one thing we can’t countenance is any idea that there’d be a three-month limit on the backstop,” he told the Irish media.

See how the day in Westminster unfolded below

Theresa May's flagship policy to solve housing crisis will deliver no new homes in half of England

Exclusive: Ministers admit half of local authorities stand to miss out on billions of pounds of funding for new low-cost homes

Boris Johnson calls Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal an ‘absolute stinker’

Boris Johnson has urged MPs to defy the prime minister over her “appalling” Brexit blueprint amid reports the UK is close to striking a deal with Brussels.

In a strongly-worded intervention, the leading Brexiteer said Theresa May’s apparent plan to keep the whole of the UK in a customs union was “an absolute stinker”.

Downing Street and Brussels have pushed back against reports that Ms May is close to a deal with the EU to create a customs agreement that would avoid the need for the Northern Ireland border “backstop” that has been at the heart of the impasse in negotiations.

Welcome to The Independent's politics live blog - we'll be bringing you all the latest updates from Westminster throughout the day.
This is from Sabine Weyand, the deputy chief Brexit negotiator at the European Commission.

Privatising Britain’s railways cost taxpayers £5bn per year and increased fares, Labour claims

The 'catastrophic' privatisation of Britain’s railways has cost the taxpayer £5bn per year and driven up fares by 20 per cent, Labour has claimed.

Analysis released to mark the 25th anniversary of the legislation that privatised British Rail suggests government subsidies of the railways have increased fourfold since 1993.  

And since 1995, shortly after British Rail began to be sold off, fares have increased by an average of 20 per cent in real terms, while some routes have seen a much bigger rise.

Labour said the cost of a peak-time single ticket from London to Manchester has increased by 238 per cent, from £50 to £169 – three times the rate of inflation during the period.

A single fare from London to Exeter has rocketed from £37.50 to £129.50 – a rise of 245 per cent – while a ticket from London to Swindon has more than trebled, from £20 to £66.

Remain-backing Conservative MP Dominic Grieve said reported proposals for the UK to remain in a customs union following EU withdrawal made clear that the whole Brexit process was "questionable".

The former attorney general told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "At the end of the day it highlights why the entire enterprise is questionable, because in fact what we are likely to end up with is leaving the EU but staying in a relationship of sufficient dependency on it without influence as to call into question the whole project."

"I don't accept that rejecting the deal would necessarily mean it is no deal at all," said Mr Grieve. "Of course it would provoke a political crisis ... but there comes a point where you have to look to the long term.

"If the long term is that we are simply going to be continuing this argument long after we've left the EU on March 29 next year as to what our future relationship with it is going to be, then, quite frankly, it would be better to have that argument now and let the public decide what they want and if they are content with the arrangements the Government has come up with."

 

Boris Johnson calls Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal an ‘absolute stinker’

Boris Johnson has urged MPs to defy the prime minister over her “appalling” Brexit blueprint amid reports the UK is close to striking a deal with Brussels.

In a strongly-worded intervention, the leading Brexiteer said Theresa May’s apparent plan to keep the whole of the UK in a customs union was “an absolute stinker”.

Downing Street and Brussels have pushed back against reports that Ms May is close to a deal with the EU to create a customs agreement that would avoid the need for the Northern Ireland border “backstop” that has been at the heart of the impasse in negotiations.

Theresa May’s spokesman has refused to say whether the UK has privately demanded the right to pull Britain out of the EU's proposed Irish backstop after just three months.

He also declined to recognise an unofficial deadline of this week to make progress in the talks – before hopes of a special summit this month to agree a deal have to be abandoned.

Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, has angered the Irish government by saying the UK must have the unilateral right to pull the plug on the backstop – the guarantee of no return to a hard border – and, apparently, put the demand in a letter to Theresa May.

Asked about the reports, the spokesman said he “would not comment on any private correspondence between the prime minister and ministers”.

And, on the right to end the backstop after as little as three months, he said only: “We don’t want the backstop to be in place indefinitely and are looking for a mechanism to achieve that.”

The Cabinet will discuss Brexit tomorrow, but it appears unlikely that any key decisions will be reached that would clear the way for the prime minister to strike a deal by the end of the week.

No 10 insists that whether the EU calls a special summit in November is a “decision for them” – saying only that the UK wants to reach an agreement “as soon as we can”.
 

Senior MP claims Arron Banks contradicted his own evidence over source of £8m funding for Leave campaign

Brexit backer Arron Banks is facing fresh pressure to explain the source of £8m of funding for the Leave campaign amid claims from a senior MP that he had contradicted his own evidence.

The millionaire businessman is facing a criminal probe over millions of pounds of loans and donations to Leave.EU - a group he co-founded - which has been linked to possible Russian interference in the EU referendum.

Mr Banks sowed confusion when he told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that all the cash came from a UK-registered company, Rock Services, and insisted he was being targeted by politicians trying to overturn the result of the Brexit vote.

Downing Street has also announced that Theresa May will be appointing a new sports minister later today - after Tracey Crouch resigned from the position last week in a row over highly-addictive fixed odd betting machines. 
 
 
Here is a readout from Theresa May's phone call with the Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar this morning:
 
"Both leaders emphasised their commitment to avoiding a hard border and the need for a legally operable backstop," an Irish readout of the phone call stated.
 
"The PM raised the possibility of a review mechanism for the backstop. The taoiseach indicated an openness to consider proposals for a review, provided that it was clear that the outcome of any such review could not involve a unilateral decision to end the backstop.
 
"He recalled the prior commitments made that the backstop must apply 'unless and until' alternative arrangements are agreed. They both expressed the hope that the negotiations could conclude in a satisfactory manner as soon as possible."  

Letter signed by 1,400 top lawyers calls May to give voters final say on Brexit deal

Letter argues parliament should not be bound by 2016 vote any more than 1975 poll to take UK into EU

Universities ‘not providing value for money’, MPs’ report says

Universities must focus on value for money and improving access for disadvantaged students, MPs have said.

A report published by the Education Committee says there needs to be a sharper focus on graduate employment outcomes, the teaching of skills and supporting poorer students.

The committee calls on universities and the government to ensure better outcomes, expand degree apprenticeships and tackle the issue of excessive vice-chancellor pay.

Committee chairman Robert Halfon said: “We know our universities are among the best in the world and global leaders in teaching and research, but to maintain standards and to deliver for students it is vital we ask the question of whether our higher education system is fit for the 21st century.

“The blunt reality is that too many universities are not providing value for money and that students are not getting good outcomes from the degrees for which so many of them rack up debt.

Theresa May forced to call Leo Varadkar to calm Irish anger over border

Theresa May called the Irish prime minister on Monday in order to calm anger in Dublin over comments made by her Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.

Mr Raab reportedly tried to backslide on a commitment the UK had made to prevent a hard border with the Republic, suggesting the 'backstop' policy should expire after just three months.

The Taoiseach's office said the prime minister has "sought" the call on Monday after the comments, said to have been made in a private meeting with officials, emerged. 

Opinion: The Conservatives will break Theresa May at the very worst moment

The Tories want a hardline version of Brexit that the country does not. If they try to force it on May, the consequences are not hard to foresee, writes Tom Peck

 

4 in 10 Britons back second referendum between Brexit deal and remaining in EU

20,000 people questioned ahead of Channel 4 live debate, in one of largest surveys on subject
Caroline Nokes, a home office minister, is now addressing the Commons. She thanks Yvettee Cooper, the chair of the home affairs select committee, for giving her the chance to clairfy her comments last week.
 
She says UK employers will not need to carry out additional checks on EU citizens in event of a no-deal Brexit, saying: "We will not be asking employees to differentiate, even if there is a no-deal."
 
This is the story on the confusion from last week.

Immigration minister u-turns over claims employers will have to check EU citizens status after Brexit

Home Office issues contradictory statement, saying employers would 'not be expected to differentiate between resident EU citizens and those arriving after exit'
Jon Thompson, the permanent secretary at HMRC, is now appearing at the public accounts committee in Westminster on the subject of "Brexit and the UK border".
 
Here's a report from last month on the UK borders in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
 
 

It's too late to prepare UK borders for no-deal Brexit, National Audit Office warns Theresa May

Failure to plan will open up 'weaknesses' which 'organised criminals and others are likely to be quick to exploit' – if UK crashes out of the EU
 


The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.

Sign our petition here

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