Theresa May is battling for Government unity on her backstop proposals for the Irish border as the Brexit war Cabinet meets.
The Prime Minister is facing a tough response from Brexiteers over plans to allow a time-limited deal which would see the UK stay within parts of the EU customs union as a fall-back position if no preferred trade agreement was reached on withdrawal.
Amid reports that Brexit Secretary David Davis had considered resigning over the issue, a Government source told the Press Association: “He’s a very senior member of the Cabinet. We really value his contribution.”
With the inner Brexit war Cabinet set to meet on Thursday, the Government still could not say when the proposals would be made public.
Cabinet tensions on the backstop initiative emerged after Mr Davis was believed to be insisting that the UK should be able to unilaterally withdraw from any border agreement in order to maintain leverage with Brussels in ongoing negotiations.
When pressed on whether he could remain in post if the backstop deal did not meet his full approval, Mr Davis said: “That’s a question I think for the Prime Minister to be honest.”
Mr Davis made it clear that the document would be “decisive” as he said he planned to meet chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier again for Brexit talks next week.
Brexiteers accused the Prime Minister of giving the document regarding Northern Ireland to Cabinet supporters before more hardline advocates of EU withdrawal like Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, according to The Times.
The Cabinet wrangling came as Mrs May faced a battle on a second front as she tried to persuade Tory rebels not to go against her when the EU (Withdrawal) Bill returns to the Commons on Tuesday.
Mrs May is determined to try and stop Tory MPs inflicting humiliating defeats on her by siding with amendments backed by the House of Lords.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said the apparent Cabinet disarray over the customs backstop made a damaging “no deal” Brexit more likely.
Sir Vince told the Press Association: “The idea that we could finish up with no deal at all – which we effectively discarded three months ago – is very much now back on the table as a real possibility.
“We could be in real crisis with no deal, which emphasises the importance of having a vote on the final package with the option of remaining in the European Union.”