Michael Gove has attacked the EU for “refusing to negotiate” a new Brexit deal, calling the move “wrong and sad”.
The minister in charge of preparing all departments for a no-deal divorce said “we do need a new approach” but added “the days of drift we’ve had in the past have ended”.
He added the 31 October Brexit date was a “firm deadline”.
It comes after EU leaders reportedly accepted Britain is leaving the bloc on Halloween without a withdrawal agreement.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has insisted he is not “fatalistic” and the scenario can be avoided, but warned its chances grow by the day.
Irish finance minister Paschal Donohoe echoed those comments after meeting Chancellor Sajid Javid, saying that he believed “the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is growing”.
Mr Donohoe added that such an outcome would “fundamentally change” the relationship between Britain and Ireland.
He said the consequences of a no-deal exit were “well understood by us in Ireland and this is the reason why over the last number of weeks we have published our latest contingency plan”.
Britain and Brussels are in deadlock over a Brexit deal after Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanded a key part of the agreement, the Irish backstop, be scrapped.
EU leaders have refused to comply, with a spokesperson for the European Commission confirming again on Tuesday: “We will not re-open the withdrawal agreement.”
They added the non-binding political declaration setting out the terms for negotiations on the future relationship could be changed and that “we do remain open to hold talks should the UK wish to clarify its position”.
But Mr Gove, speaking before a daily meeting to co-ordinate Whitehall’s no-deal preparations in Downing Street, said the backstop had to go.
“We can’t have a deal that doesn’t command the confidence of the government, the parliament and the country,” he told journalists outside Number 10.
“We will put all our energy into making sure that we can secure that good deal.
“But at the moment it’s the EU that seems to be saying they’re not interested – they’re simply saying ‘no we don’t want to talk’.
“I think that’s wrong and sad.”
Earlier, a senior EU diplomat quoted by two newspapers – The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph – said “our working hypothesis is no-deal”.
Despite the new government’s insistence Brexit will happen “do or die” in under 90 days time, MPs are planning to intervene to block a no-deal.
Dominic Grieve, the Tory backbencher and former attorney general, laid out plans to call a no-confidence vote in Mr Johnson and install a “national unity” prime minister in his place to ask the EU to delay Brexit again.
He added that the reported claim by Mr Johnson’s top adviser Dominic Cummings that under “no circumstances” could MPs block Brexit was “simply wrong”.