IT’S Theresa May’s Chequers Plan or no deal, David Lidington, her effective deputy, has told French business leaders in a blunt message.

And his Cabinet colleague Dominic Raab, the Brexit Secretary, told a House of Lords committee that the passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill through Westminster showed that Britain not only had a Unionist government but also had a “Unionist parliament”.

Speaking in Paris at the Mouvement des Entreprises de France conference, Mr Lidington said: “With exactly seven months until the end of Article 50 process and less than two months ahead of the October European Council, we face the choice between the pragmatic proposals we are discussing now with the European Commission or no deal.”

The Cabinet Office Minister explained that the suggested alternative models did “not meet the level of ambition or the outcome we all want to see delivered”.

"So,” Mr Lidington urged, “we need the EU to engage with us on our positive vision of the future relationship."

He then warned: “I truly feel that we are at a fork in the road. There are trends on both sides of the Channel, both sides of the North Sea, and both sides of the Atlantic that could see us drift apart.”

But the Cabinet minister also sought to allay fears within the EU27 that Britain’s desire to have a close relationship on goods but a looser one on services would reduce red tape for British businesses, enabling them to undercut their continental competitors, and give them a £6 billion Brexit dividend.

“Our proposals would ensure a level playing field,” declared Mr Lidington, “with commitments on areas like state aid, environmental, social and employment protections and other regulatory standards.”

He added: “We understand that the EU is concerned that we could lower our standards to gain a competitive advantage but these concerns are completely unfounded. Like France, we view economic growth, consumer and worker protection and sustainable development as going together hand in hand, not as trade-offs.”

At Westminster during a one-off session of the Lords EU Committee during the summer recess, Mr Raab again insisted he was confident that a deal was “within our sights”.

He told peers: “We're bringing ambition, pragmatism, energy and if, and I expect it will be, and if it is matched, we get a deal."

The Brexit Secretary also confirmed that the deadline for a deal, once put at the October 18/19 European Council, could “creep beyond that,” and slip into November.

On the Northern Irish border, he suggested there was still no agreed solution but stressed how Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, had confirmed he was open to new solutions on the backstop.

"He has acknowledged the position could be amended or improved. What I can say is we're both committed to a solution and there is a lot of interesting, innovative technical work to make sure we resolve it," explained the Secretary of State.

He made clear nothing had been ruled out on the Northern Irish border.

"We're not going to see a customs border drawn down the Irish Sea. We're not going to do anything which would imperil the Belfast Agreement. We want to make sure, in a positive sense, that the solution works for the communities on both sides," declared Mr Raab.

He insisted the UK had a “Unionist Parliament,” as indicated in the latest Westminster votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill.

"For all the din you get around parliamentary votes, actually it was quite a good opportunity to reinforce the fact that we don't just have a Conservative and Unionist government but we also have a Unionist Parliament.

"Because some of those amendments - in fact all the amendments - that would have risked the concern that we have around a customs border on the Irish Sea, Parliament clearly supported the Government's position. So we have a Unionist parliament as well as a Unionist government," Mr Raab added.