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Theresa May to offer 'double lock' on her Brexit deal in bid to woo MPs worried about UK being trapped in customs union

As the Commons returns from its festive break the Prime Minister will ramp up efforts to win round rebels ahead of the crunch vote this month on her deal.

The PM is pursuing a twin-track approach – dubbed a "double lock" by one ally – to put a time limit on the Irish backstop, the Daily Mail reported.

The backstop is designed to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland if trade talks break down.

But critics believe it could leave the UK trapped indefinitely in a form of customs union – which stops us negotiating trade deals with non-EU countries.

Officials are reportedly drawing up a possible Commons amendment to the Brexit vote which would give Parliament the right to serve notice to the EU of an intention to quit the backstop after one year if Brussels fails to agree a trade deal with the UK that would resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, Mrs May is also seeking a written guarantee from the EU that a trade deal can be agreed within 12 months of the transition period ending.

But former Brexit minister Steve Baker rejected the proposals, saying they were a "tedious and desperate attempt to rescue an salvageable deal".

A significant number of Tory Brexiteers remain opposed to Mrs May's Brexit deal and appear relaxed about crashing out of the EU on March 29 without a deal.

Former Cabinet minister and newly knighted Sir John Redwood insisted a no-deal Brexit "will work just fine" despite the "idiotic" warnings about potential shortages of food and medicines.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Many of us in the country just want to move on and talk about something else, we want to be out and we know it will work just fine."

On the flip side pro-EU veteran Ken Clarke said Mrs May's deal – which he would be prepared to support – is "dying" and he would be "amazed" if the mood of MPs had changed over the Christmas break.

Instead, he called for Brexit to be delayed until a way forward can be found.

The Prime Minister delayed a vote on her Brexit deal last month as it appeared she was going to be humiliated.

MPs are set to resume debate on Brexit on Wednesday ahead of a vote the following week, widely expected to be on January 15.

The Times reported that the Dancing Queen PM will host Tory Brexiteers for drinks and nibbles on Monday and Wednesday as part of a charm offensive.

On Friday, Mrs May had a "friendly" call with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the pair are expected to keep in touch next week, fuelling speculation about efforts to win further concessions from Brussels ahead of the Commons vote.

Last month the PM confronted Mr Juncker in a frosty exchange over suggestions he called her "nebulous".

On Monday Britain start testing how the road network would cope with a no-deal Brexit – by effectively staging a practice traffic jam.

Around 150 HGV lorries will converge on a route between Manston Airport and Dover, one of the key points of entry to the UK.

Meanwhile, a dredger has been seen working in Ramsgate harbour, the port which is proposed as an alternative freight route to Europe if a no-deal Brexit results in chaos at Dover and the Channel Tunnel.

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