Article 50 can only be extended by the unanimous agreement of the 27 other member states, and on the request of the withdrawing state, which May has already said she is not prepared to do.
Instead, the government is proposing to negotiate the closest possible commercial links – “a common rule book” – for goods trade with the bloc, saying this is the only way to balance political and economic priorities.
However, the meeting comes as the head of Amazon in the United Kingdom was reported by The Times to have said there could be “civil unrest” within two weeks if Britain leaves the European Union with no deal.
“But this is something we can resolve unilaterally by putting them on the visa free travel list”.
The Irish government, which has said it has concerns about May’s “white paper”, on Friday said a backstop was essential, but could be renegotiated.
Despite attacking the “unhelpful” reports, he said: “We’re making sure, both in the allocation of money – £3bn extra allocated at the last budget – through operational things, like hiring extra border staff, through the legal arrangements, both domestic but also the treaty arrangements, that we’re ready for any and every eventuality”.
However there is no guarantee a deal will be in place before the United Kingdom leaves, it says.
The 500-kilometre (300 mile) border has become one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the negotiations.
In her first major Brexit speech since the wave of ministerial resignations which followed her Chequers deal, the Prime Minister described the white paper proposals as “a significant development of our position … a coherent package”.
Theresa May has set out a pragmatic case for Northern Ireland remaining within the Union and has said that she will always argue for a constitutional structure which enables four nations to pool and share their resources. She said that undermining it would be a betrayal.
The Prime Minister attempted to deny these criticisms at a press conference in Northern Ireland on Friday, but just hours later Barnier – perhaps unintentionally – completely undermined her, telling reporters that one the “very positive” aspects of Chequers is that guarantees “the role to be played the ECJ as sole arbiter”.
Barnier, however, added that “several elements [in the white paper] does open the way a construction discussion on the future”.
Barnier said he had invited British negotiators to discuss the backstop next week.
European Union negotiator Michel Barnier is also lukewarm on May’s latest proposal, asking many questions about its viability.
May said that “no technology solution to address these issues has been designed yet, or implemented anywhere in the world, let alone in such a unique and highly sensitive context as the Northern Ireland border”.
May used a speech Friday in Northern Ireland to urge European Union negotiators to be more open-minded on how to solve the Irish border issue, a key sticking point in talks on Britain’s exit from the bloc, which is expected in March.
“But I think any responsible government would have to make sure you’ve got the planning and preparations in place in the event of the negotiations not reaching a positive outcome, and that’s what we’re doing”.