Boris Johnson has said Brexit talks with the European Union will be stepped up in the coming weeks in a bid to secure a new deal.
The prime minister’s lead negotiator, David Frost, met EU officials this week and agreed to “intensify talks”.
Downing Street said the initial discussions showed the two sides remain some distance apart on key issues.
However, Mr Johnson said he was “encouraged” by the reaction from EU leaders in recent weeks and said it was “now time for both sides to step up the tempo”.
The UK’s negotiation team will now sit down with their EU counterparts twice a week, with the possibility of additional meetings.
The talks will look at a range of issues, including the disagreement around the Irish backstop.
The backstop is designed as an insurance policy to make sure the Irish border stays open after Brexit.
Mr Johnson has said there will be no new deal unless it is removed from the withdrawal agreement.
However, the EU has insisted it must stay, with the French President Emmanuel Macron saying last week that it was “indispensable”.
The ramping up of talks will be seen as in part an effort to quell concern among some in the party that a no-deal Brexit is now inevitable.
Conservative MPs are expected to vote alongside opposition parties next week to try and stop the government pursuing a no-deal.
It comes as most parties in the Commons joined forces to call for the prime minister to reverse his decision to suspend Parliament next month.
The joint statement signed by Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, The Independent Group for Change and the Green Party also called for MPs to be given a vote on the prorogation plan.
“Voters are being deprived of the opportunity to have their representatives hold the government to account, make any key decisions, and ensure there is a lawful basis for any action that is taken,” said the statement.
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In a sign of the concern within the Conservative Party, former cabinet minister Ken Clarke told Sky News that he “probably would” vote for Jeremy Corbyn to become a caretaker prime minister in order to stop a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Clarke said he would only back the Labour leader if he could be kept “under control” and “wouldn’t have the slightest chance of implementing any bits of his Labour manifesto”.
He also acknowledged it was a highly unlikely outcome because Mr Corbyn was so divisive among MPs and “like a red rag to a bull for all sides”.
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