Theresa May’s hopes of a Brexit breakthrough are hanging in the balance after the EU appeared to rebuff her latest appeal for help in getting her withdrawal deal through Parliament.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said they would be “working intensively” in the coming days to resolve the impasse over the Northern Ireland backstop ahead of Tuesday’s crunch vote by MPs.
However his suggestion the UK could unilaterally pull out of the planned single customs territory if it chose was dismissed by ministers as an attempt to “rerun old arguments”.
The DUP, which props up the Government at Westminster, said Northern Ireland would still be in the backstop, effectively drawing a “border in the Irish Sea” with the rest of the UK, something Mrs May has repeatedly ruled out.
There had been speculation the British Prime Minister could fly out to Brussels early on Monday to clinch a deal if an agreement on the backstop – intended to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland – was within grasp.