Prime Minister Theresa May today said the option emerged to extend the Brexit transition period "for a matter of months", but that she still expected it to conclude at the end of 2020 as she arrived at an EC summit in Brussels today.
Mrs May earlier faced backlash from angry Brexiteers after she said she is “ready to consider” extending the transition period by a year.
Arriving at the European Council summit this morning, she said that the option of an extension of the transition had been floated as a way to bridge any gap between the end of 2020 and the start of a deal on the future EU/UK relationship, to ensure there was no hard border in Ireland during this time.
She insisted the extension would "only be for a matter of months" after her earlier remarks suggested it could go on into 2021.
She said: "A further idea that has emerged - and it is an idea at this stage - is to create an option to extend the implementation period for a matter of months - and it would only be for a matter of months.
"But the point is that this is not expected to be used, because we are working to ensure that we have that future relationship in place by the end of December 2020.
"I'm clear that it is possible to do that and that is what we are working for, and in those circumstances there would be no need for any proposal of this sort and I'm clear that I expect the implementation period to end at the end of December 2020."
She previously indicated extending the transition until the end of 2021 could be on the cards.
Nigel Farage said that it would mean that the UK wouldn’t fully withdraw from the EU until almost the next general election in 2022 and “may mean we never leave at all.”
While Conservative MP Nadine Dorries called for Mrs May to be replaced as leader by former Brexit Secretary David Davis.
She said: “We cannot find the money to fund our frontline police properly, we cannot find the £2 billion for the vulnerable on Universal Credit, but we can mysteriously find billions to bung to the EU for the unnecessary extra year Clegg and Blair asked Barnier for to waylay Brexit.”
While Mr Davis’ former chief of staff Stewart Jackson said: "If you can't - or in the EU's case won't - resolve the backstop issue now because it's an issue of principle than why will it take another three years to resolve it? Will it not be an issue of principle once we have coughed up billions more in UK taxpayers' cash?"
Instead of a longer transition period, Mrs May had suggested an “implementation period” of around two years after Brexit to allow for extra time for authorities and companies to prepare for the new arrangements.
However she later accepted a 21-month transition offered by the EU, ending on the last day of December 2020.
Leaders of the remaining 27 EU states have ditched plans for a special Brexit summit in November after chief negotiator Michael Barnier told them he needed “much more time” to find a way to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
Additional reporting by PA.