The Tory MEP insisted the controversial backstop is an attempt by the EU to control the UK’s trade policy after Brexit. Mr Hannan said: “The backstop has nothing to do with the Irish border.

“It is about allowing the EU to control the terms of Britain’s trade with countries like the US and India even after we have left.

“No self-respecting nation could ever have signed up to that.”

It comes as London and Brussels are at an impasse over fresh Brexit negotiations.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is demanding the backstop is dropped from the Brexit deal.

But the EU is insisting the Withdrawal Agreement, which includes the backstop, cannot be reopened and will only make changes to the Political Declaration on the future relationship between the UK and the bloc.

The backstop is aimed at preventing a hard Irish border after Brexit but critics fear it could be used to permanently trap the UK in the EU customs union and prevent Britain striking its own trade deals.

Speaking during a visit to Northern Ireland yesterday, Michael Gove, who is responsible for no-deal planning, said Mr Johnson is ready to discuss alternatives to the backstop with the EU.

He said: “The Prime Minister is keen to explore with EU leaders how we can ensure we can have a withdrawal agreement that will pass Parliament.

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Mr Gove added the Government would spend “whatever it takes” preparing for a no-deal Brexit.

It comes after Mr Johnson told civil servants in a letter yesterday that planning for no deal must be their top priority.

The Prime Minister said to officials he would “very much prefer” to leave on October 31 with a new agreement with Brussels in place, but he recognised that “this may not happen”.

He wrote: “That is why preparing urgently and rapidly for the possibility of an exit without a deal will be my top priority, and it will be the top priority for the Civil Service too.”

And on Thursday Mr Johnson’s chief strategic adviser Sir Edward Lister emailed all special advisers informing them that no holidays would be allowed until the end of October.

The email, seen by The Guardian, said: “There is serious work to be done between now and October 31 and we should be focused on the job.”


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