A CABINET minister has insisted Brexit negotiations are continuing amid reports major concessions had been made by Brussels.

​The Sunday Times stated the EU would allow the creation of a whole-UK customs union that would avoid the need for a Northern Ireland border “backstop” that has been at the heart of the impasse in negotiations.

At the same time, it reported there would be an “exit clause” in the deal to convince Brexiteers in Parliament that the arrangement – which they oppose – would not be permanent. The EU has to date rejected a temporary customs union.

The paper also reported that the Prime Minister was on course to agree a future economic partnership that would leave open the possibility of Canada-style free trade deal sought by Brexiteers.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire, appearing on Sky’s Ridge On Sunday, was asked if a deal was close.

He replied: “Well, we want to get that deal, we’re obviously working hard to see that that happens.

“Negotiations are still very firmly continuing, and therefore we are 95% of the way there in relation to the Withdrawal Agreement.

“Obviously still having this issue in relation to the insurance arrangements for Northern Ireland and Ireland, and that very much remains our focus and attention in getting that deal.”

A Downing Street spokeswoman added: “The Prime Minister is clear we are leaving the customs union.

“We are making good progress on the future relationship, and 95% of the Withdrawal Agreement has been settled. Negotiations are ongoing.”

A spokesman for Ireland’s tanaiste Simon Coveney said: “The UK has given written commitments last December and March that the Withdrawal Agreement will include a legal guarantee of no return to a hard border in Ireland in any circumstance.

“In March the UK agreed this backstop will apply ‘unless and until’ a close future relationship eliminates any need for border infrastructure or related checks and controls.

“While we too hope the Northern Ireland backstop will never be required to be used, it will be required to be written down in legal text.

“This has been committed to by the UK in order to have a Withdrawal Agreement. We hope a deal can be done but we’re not there yet.”

The Sunday Times reported that preparations for a final deal were far more advanced than previously disclosed and could pave the way for a special UK/EU summit later this month and a possible vote in  Parliament in December.

It also said the plan, to be discussed by ministers tomorrow, would lead to a document of 50 pages or more when published – not the vague, five-page plan expected.

Cabinet sources told the paper  parts of the plans could have been written by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the  leader of the hardline Eurosceptics.

The claim prompted the First Minister to write on Twitter: “If Jacob Rees Mogg could have written it, it is not a good deal!”

Meanwhile, 1400 of the UK’s top lawyers have urged Theresa May and MPs to back a second Brexit referendum, saying that “democratic government is not frozen in time”.

Labour peer Baroness Kennedy QC, former Court of Appeal judge Konrad Schiemann and David Edward, a former judge of the Court of Justice of the European Communities are among those who have called for a People’s Vote on EU membership.

In a letter to Mrs May they say Parliament should not be bound by the 2016 vote any more than it should be by the 1975 referendum that took Britain into the EU, especially when there are question marks over its validity.

They wrote that “voters are entitled to know what they are voting for”, adding: “There was a key difference between 1975 and 2016. The earlier referendum was held after negotiations were complete, so voters knew what they were voting for.

“In 2016, the nature of the negotiation process and its outcome were unknown. Voters faced a choice between a known reality and an unknown alternative.

“In the campaign, untestable claims took the place of facts and reality.”