Brexit negotiations must be tied up by the end of next month to allow new laws to be put in place in time for exit day, Dominic Raab has said.
The Brexit Secretary urged restive Tory MPs circling around Theresa May to “play for the team” and called on them to wait for the deal to be struck before taking action.
Furious backbenchers have warned the Prime Minister she is “drinking in the last chance saloon” after tensions flared over her negotiating strategy following a Brussels summit.
We need to hold our nerve. The end is in sight in terms of a good deal, the prize we wantDominic Raab
Mrs May said she was open to the possibility of extending the transition period that kicks in after exit day by a matter of months.
Mr Raab suggested the extension could run for three months but said the move would have to “solve” the Irish backstop issue.
There must also be a route out of it so it did not run indefinitely, he said.
“It could be time limited, there could be another mechanism,” he told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr show.
A meeting of EU leaders in December has been talked of as the final deadline for striking a deal.
But Mr Raab said he believed the exit agreement needed to be done “towards the end of November” to allow time for legislation to be passed.
Asked about the growing criticism of Mrs May, he replied: “We are at the end stage of the negotiation.
“It is understandable that there are jitters on all sides of this debate.
“We need to hold our nerve. The end is in sight in terms of a good deal, the prize we want.
“I think colleagues should wait and see what that looks like. It won’t be a question of a fait accompli. They will have their full say over it.”
He added: “Now is the time to play for the team.”
Brexit minister Suella Braverman said any extension to the transition period must not leave “us exposed to indefinite membership of the customs union”.
Mrs Braverman, a leading Tory Brexiteer, said there are “many views” about the Prime Minister’s Chequers proposals for future trade relations.
She told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “I see Chequers as a pragmatic proposal.”
Mrs Braverman did not condemn anonymous Tory MPs who have told Sunday newspapers that Mrs May is in a “killing zone” and should “bring her own noose” to a meeting with backbenchers.
“Colleagues are free to express themselves in the way they wish, but I am very clear that our party is stronger when it’s united,” she said.
But Tory former minister Robert Halfon said: “I say to the people giving those quotes, this is not the way to change things.”
Mr Halfon said the Conservatives had a “serious image problem” and warned that voters think the party is just about austerity or Brexit.
But he dismissed suggestions it was time to replace the PM.
“I don’t think a change of leader would particularly help, particularly in the middle of Brexit,” he said.
Labour, meanwhile, warned Mrs May that if she is hoping they will help pass her Brexit blueprint she can “think again”.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said there is a “real lack of confidence” that Mrs May can bring back “anything by way of a good deal”.
He said it was not in the national interest to back a bad deal.
“What we’re going to see is even if there’s a deal, the Tory Party will try to rip it up next year – some of them are already saying they’re going to do that – so this idea of an historic moment just before Christmas in the national interest isn’t going to happen,” he told Marr.
“They will not stop fighting about this.”