Theresa May says 'maybe' to transition period extension — European Union summit

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The barrage came as Mrs May delivered a desperate plea for Remainer and Eurosceptic MPs to be realistic and support her proposals in the "national interest". I'm not yet sure we'll get one.

"None of us should be surprised given this is how the British government has always negotiated".

The DUP - which is propping Mrs May up in power - ratcheted up tensions this afternoon by threatening to vote down the Budget if she breaches their "red line" against extra checks between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

"The answer is yes", Barnier said when asked on France Inter radio if the Irish border issue could cause the negotiations to collapse. "I believe we need a deal. If you don't have an agreement you don't have a satisfactory answer [to the border issue] either".

However, the two sides have so far been unable to settle the terms of this so-called backstop.

The lack of progress means a special European Union summit on Brexit that had been penciled in for next month has been scrapped, though European Union leaders said they would assess the situation later.

In Brussels, the expectation is if there is a deal, it won't be ready to be signed off until the European Council's December summit, leaving parliaments there and in Westminster just weeks to scrutinise and vote on it. Barnier was reportedly told to offer Britain guarantees that it would not impose a customs border in the Irish Sea, the issue the aforementioned Democratic Unionist Party MPs in Northern Ireland were most concerned about.

She said: 'We do not know what they want, they do not know themselves what they really want - that's the problem.

However, Mrs Merkel also advised "each and every one ought to prepare" for the possibility of a "no-deal" Brexit, while Mr Macron also spoke of how France was preparing for a United Kingdom departure without an agreement.

FILE - A vehicle crosses over the border from the Irish Republic into Northern Ireland near the town of Jonesborough, Northern Ireland, Jan. 30, 2017.

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"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.

The EU's backstop proposal would see Northern Ireland stay in elements of the bloc's single market and customs union, meaning it would have to accept EU rules on quality standards and apply EU tariffs.

According to Hunt, "all but one or two issues" on Brexit have been settled in exit talks.

European leaders had hoped to hold a special summit in November to seal the divorce, but on Wednesday they refused to sign off on the plan, taking the bloc a step closer to the potentially catastrophic scenario of Britain crashing out in March without a deal.

Meanwhile, DUP MP Gregory Campbell has described yesterday's comments by the Taoiseach as "completely outrageous and over-the-top".

She warned that a hard Brexit would be followed by "an immediate demand for a referendum on Irish unity".

He said nobody should get complacent but "to suggest that non-existent customs checkpoints were going to be the subject of attack, there is not going to be any checkpoints".

"I think that Mrs May wants a deal".

"The Taoiseach wanted to ensure that fellow European leaders fully realise what is at stake and the importance of preserving the peace process throughout the Brexit process", he said.

Mr Richmond also said if it goes down to WTO rules there simply has to be customs checkpoints.

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