Boris Johnson's administration looked to have upped the ante on this week's post-Brexit trade negotiations as reports emerged that ministers plans to rip-up the Withdrawal Agreement.
In reports a Government spokesman appeared to confirm, the Financial Times said the Government is planning new legislation that would override key parts of the Withdrawal Agreement – the treaty that sealed Britain's exit from the EU in January – in a move that could risk collapsing the trade talks.
The Prime Minister is also planning to give Brussels a five-week deadline to agree fresh trade terms or otherwise call for both sides to "accept" no-deal and spend the rest of the year minimising the extent of the disruption from the fallout.
Mr Johnson is expected to say on Monday that collapsing the trade talks, should there be no agreement by the October 15 European Council, would still be a "good outcome for the UK", allowing the country to "prosper mightily".
The pre-briefed words from the Prime Minister arrived as the FT reported that sections of the Internal Market Bill, due to be published this Wednesday, are expected to "eliminate" the legal force of the Withdrawal Agreement in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs.
As part of the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the region is expected to continue to follow some EU rules after the transition period ends in 2021 to ensure there is no hard border – a resolution some Brexiteers took umbrage with when initially revealed.
Approached about the reports, a Government spokeswoman said it was working to "protect Northern Ireland's place in our United Kingdom".
Pictures of the week: September 6 - 12
Pictures of the week: September 6 - 12
Naked activists holding placards during the Redress the Injustice Protest.
Extinction Rebellion Fashion Action (XRFA) demonstrate outside the Topshop and Topman store on Oxford Street, opposing the fashion industry�s many human, animal and environmental injustices claiming that, it currently produces around 10\% of global carbon emissions. Its emissions are predicted to increase by around 50\% by 2030. (Photo by Dave Rushen / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Artist Irek Jasutowicz works on a new mural of Leeds United soccer team manager Marcelo Bielsa near Hyde Park in Leeds, England Thursday Sept. 10, 2020. The West Yorkshire club will mark their return to the English Premier League after a 16-year wait with a trip to champions Liverpool on Saturday. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)
EDITORIAL USE ONLY (Left to right) Fatima Bajwa and Jahanzeb Khan after tying the knot at the UK's first drive-through wedding service, launched by ride-hailing app, FREE NOW for couples whose own weddings have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, London.
Australia's captain Aaron Finch, left, and David Warner walk out to bat during the first ODI cricket match between England and Australia, at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Jon Super, Pool)
LONDON UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 11: People take part in a demonstration against Chinaâs persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang in front of Chinese Embassy in London, United Kingdom on September 11, 2020. (Photo by Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
A view of the scene after a bus crashed into a railway bridge on Well House Lane, in Winchester, England, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. At least three children were taken to hospital with serious injuries. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)
A woman wearing a face mask looks at her mobile phone. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Young people out in Newcastle city centre at night. People in England will be banned from meeting in groups of more than six from Monday as ministers try to tackle the rising number of coronavirus cases across the UK.
The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square is seen with graffiti reading 'is a racist' on the plinth, in London, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
EU Chief negotiator Michel Barnier gestures as he leaves after a meeting at Westminster Conference Centre in London, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. UK and EU officials have their eighth round of Brexit negotiations in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A woman wearing a mask to protect against coronavirus, leaves a store, a day after the county borough of Caerphilly began a local lockdown following a "significant rise" in coronavirus cases, in Caerphilly, South Wales, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
Police stopping a group of protesters in Whitehall near Downing Street joining other activists during the demonstration.
Extinction Rebellion protesters in Parliament Square try to stop British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson getting from Downing Street to Parliament by sitting in the road outside. The activists use nonviolent means to put pressure on politicians to implement actions to slow down climate change. (Photo by Dave Rushen / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Extinction Rebellion activists march along Parliament Street, as part of a climate change protest, in London, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
LONDON, Sept. 8, 2020 -- A woman wearing a face shield walks past the London Eye in London, Britain, Sept. 8, 2020.
The latest British official figures showed Tuesday that COVID-19 death toll had hit 57,400 as British people are being urged to take the pandemic seriously or face "a bumpy road" ahead. (Photo by Han Yan/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Han Yan via Getty Images)
LONDON, Sept. 8, 2020 -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks back to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, Sept. 8, 2020.
Crucial talks aimed at finding a post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and the European Union (EU) opened Tuesday in London.
Boris Johnson said Monday that he wants a post-Brexit trade deal agreed with EU by an Oct. 15 deadline, warning that a failure of that could mean London ending its EU membership with no deal. (Photo by Han Yan/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Han Yan via Getty Images)
Extinction Rebellion protesters wearing facemasks hold up protest placards outside Shell Tower in Waterloo, London.
Extinction Rebellion are trying to step up the pressure on the fossil fuel giant to end destruction of ecosystems and communities around the world. (Photo by Dave Rushen / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A HS2 Rebellion tree protector climbs a mature tree in Denham Country Park in order to try to prevent its felling as part of works for the HS2 high-speed rail link on 7 September 2020 in Denham, United Kingdom. Anti-HS2 activists continue to try to prevent or delay works on the controversial £106bn project for which the construction phase was announced on 4th September from a series of protection camps based along the route of the line between London and Birmingham. (photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)
A mural by street artist Van Jimmer on a Balfour Beatty hoarding in Lewisham, London. (Photo by Dave Rushen / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange take part in a protest outside the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey in London, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the U.S. government were squaring off in a London court on Monday at a high-stakes extradition case delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. American prosecutors have indicted the 49-year-old Australian on 18 espionage and computer misuse charges over the WikiLeaks publication of secret U.S. military documents a decade ago. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 08: A woman models a Rolling Stones face mask on sale during the Rolling Stones Carnaby Street store opening at RS No. 9 Carnaby on September 08, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
Dawn over Coquet Island, a small island 1.2 kilometres off Amble on the Northumberland coast. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
Dolly the Chihuahua dog dressed as Alice in Wonderland is photographed during an Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed Furbabies Dog Pageant at Jodhpurs Riding School in Tockwith, North Yorkshire, Sunday Sept. 6, 2020. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)
A protester wears a blue outfit to represent the ocean during the demonstration.
The groups of Extinction Rebellion Marine, Ocean Rebellion, Sea Life Extinction and Animal Rebellion marched in London in a �socially distanced grief march� to demand protection for the oceans and in protest against global governmental inaction to save the seas due to climate breakdown and human interference, and the loss of lives, homes and livelihoods from rising sea levels. (Photo by Dave Rushen / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A police launch passes an Extinction Rebellion Marine rib boat on the River Thames during the Extinction Rebellion Macabre Beach Party.
A beach party (on grass) next to the River Thames was held by the Extinction Rebellion Marine supporters to highlight the dangers of the extreme weather caused by climate change and sound an alarm for the urgent need to take action now to avert catastrophic flooding in London, the UK and the whole world. (Photo by Dave Rushen / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
England's Dawid Malan bats during the second Twenty20 cricket match between England and Australia, at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, England, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020. (Dan Mullan/Pool via AP)
A police forensics officer taking photographs in Irving Street, in Birmingham after a number of people were stabbed in the city centre, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020. British police say that multiple people have been injured in a series of stabbings in a busy nightlife area of the central England city of Birmingham.(Jacob King/PA via AP)
Commuters arriving at Leeds railway station. Train services will be ramped up from today as schools in England and Wales reopen and workers are encouraged to return to offices. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 06: Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan of England talk following their victory during the second Vitality International Twenty20 match between England and Australia at The Ageas Bowl on September 06, 2020 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
LEIGH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 06: Kirsty Smith of Manchester United Women tackles Guro Reiten of Chelsea Women during the Barclays FA Women's Super League at Leigh Sports Village on September 06, 2020 in Leigh, England. (Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)
A general view inside the room where the Manchester Arena Inquiry will be held, at Manchester Magistrates Court, Manchester. The inquiry will investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 22 people following the attack on May 22, 2017. (Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)
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She said: "We are working hard to resolve outstanding issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol through the Joint Committee and will continue to approach these discussions in good faith.
"As a responsible Government, we are considering fall back options in the event this is not achieved to ensure the communities of Northern Ireland are protected."
But the suggestion that ministers could possibly undermine an international treaty and use Northern Ireland as a bargaining chip has caused uproar among key figures in Ireland and mainland Europe.
Ireland foreign minister Simon Coveney, an influential player in the formation of the Withdrawal Agreement, tweeted: "This would be a very unwise way to proceed."
Labour shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh said: "It beggars belief that the Government is – yet again – playing a dangerous game in Northern Ireland and sacrificing our international standing at the altar of the Prime Minister's incompetence."
The suggested move, along with Mr Johnson's comments about no-deal, is likely to pile the pressure on as negotiators prepare to meet on Tuesday for another round of crunch talks in London.
UK negotiator Lord Frost, in the lead up to his meetings with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, used a rare interview to vouch not to "blink" as the deadline for securing a deal grows closer.
He told the Mail on Sunday (MoS) the UK would not be a "client state" to the EU, adding that Britain would be exiting the transition period "come what may" after December 31.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, speaking to Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, said the negotiations had been "boiled down to two outstanding bones of contention" – control of UK fishing waters and the level of taxpayer support the Government will be able to provide businesses – and argued neither "principle" could not be "haggled away".
Mr Johnson will make clear on Monday that the UK will not budge, telling his counterparts in Brussels the Government "cannot and will not compromise on the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country", and will look to turn attention to preparing for no-deal.
The MoS reported that Downing Street has created a transition hub, with handpicked officials across Government departments working to ensure the UK is ready to trade without a deal when the transition period ceases.
The Prime Minister is expected to say: "We are now entering the final phase of our negotiations with the EU.
"The EU have been very clear about the timetable. I am too. There needs to be an agreement with our European friends by the time of the European Council on October 15 if it's going to be in force by the end of the year.
"If we can't agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on."
But Mr Johnson, in an apparent bid to focus minds before another set of talks get underway, will say that there is "still an agreement to be had", one that is based on deals Brussels has previously struck with "Canada and so many others".
The Prime Minister will add: "Even at this late stage, if the EU are ready to rethink their current positions and agree this I will be delighted."