UK's Brexit chief rushes to Brussels for Sunday talks

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier with the DUP’s Diane Dodds and Arlene Foster

Even if a deal is hashed out Theresa May may still find it challenging back in the UK.

The DUP leader said proposals for a "backstop" arrangement - effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the single market and custom union to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland - would lead to its "permanent annexation" from the UK.

Talks between Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and EU negotiator Michel Barnier faltered on Sunday over the so-called Irish "backstop", which could see the United Kingdom remaining in the customs union.

Former Brexit minister David Davis, who resigned his post in July, criticized the government for accepting "the EU's language on dealing with the Northern Ireland border" and said it was now up to senior ministers to use their influence.

Scottish Brexit Secretary Michael Russell said: "The reality of a disastrous no-deal Brexit looms large in this latest guidance from the UK Government".

The Irish backstop measure, created to ensure no new border emerges between Ireland and Northern Ireland, is supposed to be temporary until a UK-EU trade deal can be agreed, and Theresa May pledged earlier this year that the arrangement would expire "at the very latest by the end of December 2021".

May's Brexit plan has also been questioned by some opposition Labour Party lawmakers, further dimming the prime minister's hopes of winning parliamentary backing for any Brexit deal she reaches with European Union officials.

The issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which will become the UK's border with the European Union, is one of the last remaining obstacles to achieving a divorce deal with Brussels.

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With continued speculation that Leave-supporting Cabinet ministers could resign if Mrs May presses ahead with the plan, David Davis said: "This is one of the most fundamental decisions that government has taken in modern times".

David Davis wrote in the Sunday Times that May's plans for some continued ties with the European Union under her Chequers plan is "completely unacceptable" and must be stopped. "This week the authority of our constitution is on the line". The bloc "has rejected it. The public does not like it. Parliament will not vote for it", he wrote. While all three are in the ruling Conservative Party, the two men have become vocal opponents of May's plan, saying it would betray the Brexit vote and leave Britain in a weakened position.

Lobbying of May from all sides of the Brexit debate has increased in recent weeks as London and Brussels edge closer to an agreement on a draft withdrawal treaty to cover the divorce terms, a transition period and a solution for Northern Ireland.

May says this will only be temporary, but her spokeswoman was forced to clarify the point after media reports that the final "backstop" arrangement will have no legal ending date.

Critics of the Prime Minister believe that the threshold could be passed by Wednesday depending on the nature of her approach to the Brexit talks.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged ministers to unite behind the prime minister, insisting there were "different ways" to ensure any customs commitments were "credibly time-limited".

The British prime minister, who relies on support from a tiny Northern Irish group - the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - for her parliamentary majority, faces strong resistance from the DUP to any deal that leaves the territory under the EU's jurisdiction.

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