Boris Johnson is meeting with his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar for last-ditch Brexit talks in Wirral.

The Prime Minister is having a 'private meeting' with the Taoiseach at Thornton Manor in a bid to break the deadlock as the departure deadline looms and progress with the EU falters.

Mr Johnson will hope to see concessions on the issue of the Irish backstop, the contingency measure to prevent a hard border on the island which has proved a persistent sticking point.

But with the crucial EU summit in Brussels starting in a week, the chance of the PM securing a new Withdrawal Agreement is looking increasingly unlikely.

The media have not been invited to the leaders' lunchtime meeting.

The Taoiseach has acknowledged ahead of the discussion that it will be 'very difficult' to secure a deal by next week.

Mr Johnson wants to keep Northern Ireland more closely aligned with the EU than the rest of the UK on rules on goods and agriculture but remove it from the current customs union.

But Mr Varadkar is opposed to the Republic being in a different customs union from the north.

On Wednesday, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said there was still no basis for a fresh agreement on the UK's withdrawal from the the bloc.

He said they had yet to see any "operational, legally binding solution" to the issue of the backstop ahead of next week's European Council meeting.

Mr Johnson's "two borders" proposals, he said, were based on a system "that hasn't been properly developed, that hasn't been tested."

The downbeat assessment from Mr Barnier was echoed by the Taoiseach, who said the PM was installing an obstacle to progress by insisting that Northern Ireland must leave the customs union with the rest of the UK.

"That's their position at the moment and that's one that is a great difficulty for us," Mr Varadkar told the Irish Parliament.

"As far as the Irish Government is concerned, we do want a deal, we're willing to work hard to get a deal, to work until the last moment to get a deal, but certainly not at any cost."

Mr Johnson must bring back a deal before October 19 if he is to avoid a clash over the Benn Act, which aims to prevent a no-deal departure.

The legislation orders the PM to ask for a delay to Article 50 until the end of January if MPs do not approve a deal before that date.

But he has repeatedly said he will not ask for a delay, while insisting that he will abide by the law.

Mr Johnson is planning an emergency Saturday sitting of Parliament following the summit, to be held on October 19, according to Government sources.

It is thought the PM could use the occasion to force a showdown with MPs determined to block a no-deal Brexit.

Wirral South MP Alison McGovern took to Twitter to slam the PM's decision to visit Wirral, she said: "The Prime Minister's meeting today is taking place just a few miles from Vauxhall Motors, Ellesmere Port and Airbus at Broughton.

"He should take a few minutes whilst he is here to explain to those who work there why he has put their livelihoods at risk with his No Deal.

"Whilst he is here, he could also do with explaining to people in New Ferry why their town centre is still in pieces, over two and a half years after the explosion that ruined it, and offering some kind of excuse to Wirral foodbank volunteers as to why - 10 years into a Tory Government- we still have people in Merseyside who are forced to beg for food.

"A situation that will be drastically worsened by his Brexit proposals.

"The Taoiseach is of course very welcome and I am sure that all in Wirral South constituency recognise and understand the historic and current contribution of the Irish community to Merseyside and the whole of the UK, and the friendship between our countries."