The European Union is prepared to offer more guarantees to the UK that the Irish border backstop is only intended to be temporary with less than two weeks until parliament vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's deal.
The bloc's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has labelled the backstop as an "insurance" but has moved to try and ease fears by reiterating that it would not be permanent.
“We know that there are misgivings in Britain that the backstop could keep Britain forever connected to the EU,” Michel Barnier said in an interview with Germany’s Die Welt newspaper.
“This is not the case. And we are ready to give further guarantees, assurances and clarifications that the backstop should only be temporary.”
The backstop is a contentious issue in the proposed deal and a number of MPs have called for the temporary nature of it to be legally binding.
Last month, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said that outlining the temporary nature of the Irish backstop more precisely would be the difference between getting the deal through parliament or not.
“We will not reverse the backstop,” Barnier added. “It’s an insurance. We don’t want to make use of it. And this is also the case when you insure your house. It’s only intended for the worst-case scenario.”
Barnier also said that the EU's guarantees over the backstop could come as part of a wider political agreement outlining what Britain's relationship with the bloc looks like post-Brexit.
May has said that if her withdrawal agreement is rejected for a second time, with the vote due to take place by March 12, then there will be a vote on whether to request the EU delay Brexit.
Barnier added that an extension would likely be granted if it was to solve a specific impasse with there little risk of opposition from the remaining the 27 EU leaders.
“The question that the EU27 will ask is: What (is it) for? The answer cannot be that Britain wants to postpone a problem. One would want to solve it," he said.
He added that the extension would have to be unanimously approved at a summit on March 21.