European Union leaders offer last-ditch lifeline to May on Brexit border issue

Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier

The EU has largely abandoned hope of clinching a Brexit deal this month.

"Even with the progress we have made, the European Union still requires a "backstop to the backstop", effectively an insurance policy for the insurance policy", the prime minister said.

The Conservative leader, who is facing a political high-wire act in trying to reach a deal that is acceptable to both the European Union and her MPs at home, said it was time for "cool, calm heads to prevail".

Also it is confirmation, if such were needed, of how hard it is for Barnier to drop a solution for Northern Ireland that introduces trade barriers with Great Britain. The EU said the process was expected to take a few more weeks, pushing the timeline for a deal into November at the earliest.

The UK rejected the EU's proposed backstop, which would see Northern Ireland staying in the customs union and large parts of the single market, and instead proposed a backstop which would keep the whole of the UK in the EU customs union for a limited period.

"As someone rightly said: 'It always seems impossible until it's done.' Let us not give up", Tusk wrote in his letter. She says that is unacceptable because it would impose new controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

But continued disagreement on the border issue sent both sides in the negotiations in search of revised positions.

Cabinet members including Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the house, have privately said the United Kingdom should insist on a firm date for ending the backstop.

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"We need to know what the proposal is they're falling out about", shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News. The ancient Greek warrior king Alexander the Great used his sword to slash through the knot when all else failed, according to the legend. In a statement to Yahoo Finance UK, senator Neale Richmond, the chair of the Irish parliament's Brexit committee, said: "It is not too much simply to expect this commitment to be met".

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox was said to have delivered a "masterful" contribution about how the EU's latest proposal for a "backstop for a backstop" was unacceptable.

Ms. May's backing away from a deal that was close to being agreed on, follows growing pressure from within her party.

Under questioning from Tory former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and Labour's Brexit select committee chair Hilary Benn, May was not able to offer a concrete date on when such an arrangement would come to an end.

"I'm convinced that if we as a government stand together and stand firm, we can achieve this", she told her colleagues.

At the moment, May, whose government depends on an alliance with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, has no easy route to a majority for any of the Brexit treaties so far proposed.

Germany exhorted May to come to the summit with a positive message that could kick-start the stalled talks. Border controls and customs posts are being prepared in the ports of northern France and at the Channel Tunnel, France's European affairs minister said.

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