United Kingdom still negotiating with European Union over Brexit backstop -May's spokeswoman

Brexit - UK seeking previously unthought of 'third way' around the Northern Ireland customs border impasse

But the Prime Minister has denied backing down over membership of the customs union, according to The Guardian.

In private discussions in Brussels, EU negotiators told the United Kingdom that they would not accept a temporary "pick and mix" extension to the customs union arrangements, insisting that Britain must request an extension to the transition period in its entirety, including continued payments to the EU budget.

Britain is suggesting it would be willing to extend the use of European Union tariffs as a backstop if there are delays in ratification of a Brexit deal, to avoid a return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

"It will communicate our ambition for the U.K.'s future relationship with the European Union, in the context of our vision for the U.K.'s future role in the world", he said.

On the subject of the backstop, the PM's spokeswoman said negotiations on it were continuing alongside efforts to agree a future customs model.

In private discussions in Brussels, EU negotiators have told the United Kingdom that they will not accept a temporary "pick and mix" extension to the present customs arrangements.

Asked about protecting Irish businesses from U.S. sanctions over trading with Iran, he said EU leaders were demanding a permanent exemption for European businesses in the wake of its repudiation of the nuclear deal. But the BBC are reporting that ministers recognise that extending the transition deadline beyond December 2020 is the only way to break the deadlock over the customs union and the Irish border.

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The source said discussions over the backstop arrangement were part of the government's contingency planning and could be used if there was a delay in the ratification of a Brexit deal or if there were problems with introducing new technology at the border with European Union member Ireland. Both sides fear a return of border controls could reignite the violence that afflicted Northern Ireland until a peace deal in the late 1990s.

This Irish backstop text also known as the Irish protocol is a key part of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement which guides the terms and the conditions in which the UK can leave the EU in an orderly way.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said the so-called White Paper would include "detailed, ambitious and precise explanations" of the British government's position ahead of the formal withdrawal. But the backstop proposed so far is unacceptable to May as it would sever Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K. So May's Brexit cabinet discussed alternatives this week as it tries to break the deadlock in talks.

Quick guide Why is the Irish border a stumbling block for Brexit?

The tariffs govern the duties levied on goods arriving in the customs union, the EU's trading bloc, which Britain is now a member of.

Theresa May's "war Cabinet" has agreed an extension as part of a "backstop" that would avoid a hard Irish border if no other solutions are found.

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