International trade secretary Liam Fox says UK must be able to withdraw from Irish backstop

Alexandra Rogers
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Fox said the UK could not subcontract its decision on the backstop (Source: Getty)

International trade secretary Liam Fox has said the UK must have the ability to leave the backstop arrangement that is taking centre stage in the Brexit negotiations.

Fox rejected the idea that the backstop could be ended by mutual agreement with the EU, telling reporters that Britain could not "sub contract" the decision to the other side.

The issue of the Irish border has proven to be the main stumbling block in the negotiations, with the UK and EU divided over the issue of a backstop, an arrangement designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Brexiters are adamant that there must be a mechanism that would allow the UK to leave, and many back one that would allow the UK to withdraw unilaterally – without Brussels' consent – which has been rejected by figures such as the Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar.

Earlier today former Brexit secretary David Davis said it was "not acceptable" to make the UK wait until the Irish government and EU Commission had given it approval to withdraw from the backstop.

Fox and Davis are among a number of MPs to have put pressure on May to publish the legal advice she has received from attorney general Geoffrey Cox on the strategy for Northern Ireland.

Fox said the cabinet needed to have the "fullest possible information" before deciding whether to back May's Brexit deal in parliament.