Brexit talks: Now is the time for a deal, May tells EU

Lord Empey said the EU has `no scruples in using the Irish Border question as a tool to protect themselves'

European Union negotiator Michel Barnier raised the idea as a way of breaking the deadlock on how to keep Britain's border with Ireland open after Brexit, the key issue holding up the divorce talks.

"The PM set out her position on Monday, Donald Tusk has set out his views and the PM looks forward to face to face discussion", was Number 10's response to the request from the EU Council President for "concrete proposals" and "new facts" following the unravelling of a technical deal on Sunday over the issue of the Irish backstop.

There were doubts about the value of calling any special summit in November to finalise the EU-UK divorce terms as many leaders sought to calm things and maximise use of the final weeks.

Option to extend not expected to be used.

The EU hopes an extended transition will be enough to help May accept its plan for the Irish border, an official said.

He said: "Prime Minister, go to Brussels and act in the interests of all citizens across the United Kingdom and negotiate to keep us in the single market and customs union, that will command the majority in the House of Commons".

Britain continues to be split by Brexit more than two years since the referendum - which was settled in favour of Leave by 52% to 48%.

Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel said: "I'm able to come as often as we need to find a solution but I'm not here to just to come and have a cup of coffee and some shortbread". "We have shown we can do hard deals together constructively", she said.

One of the people familiar with the discussions said May's Tory party would find it hard to be fighting the next general election - due in 2022 - while the country is still inside the single market and customs union.

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"Many Conservative MPs are making clear to the government that we won't support legislation seeking to prolong transition and large payments for no good reason", said John Redwood, a Conservative Brexit supporter.

She is hemmed in by pro-Brexit members of her Conservative Party, who oppose any more compromises with the bloc, and by her parliamentary allies in Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, who insist a solution to the border issue can't include customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. "I believe a deal is achievable and now is the time to make it happen", said May entering the summit.

An extension could buy negotiators time to resolve the impasse over the Ireland-UK border, but the suggestion immediately courted criticism from within May's own party when it was first floated in Westminster on Wednesday.

"They are trying to leave this so late that they can credibly say there is no alternative but a "no-deal" Brexit, and most people agree that would be chaos", Boles told the BBC.

A senior European Union official later said Mrs May had indicated she was "ready to consider" a longer transition period.

BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley, in Brussels, said European Union sources suggested the PM had given a "relatively positive assessment" and while there was goodwill on both sides "we are not where we would have liked to be".

Asked if she was anxious, Ms Grybauskaite replied: "Not yet".

Economists fear "no deal" Brexit would greatly disrupt trade, travel and manufacturers' supply chains in Europe, push Britain into recession and even have global consequences.

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