EU Commission sets Sunday deadline after 'no white smoke' on Brexit deal

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson hold a press conference at Brexit HQ in Westminster

And did Mrs May really expect to get away with a deal that would effectively allow Northern Ireland to remain within the single market and customs union while keeping the rest of the United Kingdom out?

The BBC's Adam Fleming said that following an update from chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier on Wednesday, EU member states agreed there must be clarity within 48 hours for them to have enough time to consult with their capitals about draft guidelines for phase two of the talks. "Talks are continuing through the night", Juncker's spokesman Margaritis Schinas said on Twitter.

"Tonight more than ever, stay tuned".

A deal fell apart on Monday when the UK's pledge of "regulatory alignment" across Ireland - to avoid border customs checks and posts - was vetoed by the DUP.

European Council president Donald Tusk is due to make a statement early on Friday morning - in which he could announce a deal.

The Brexit talks between the United Kingdom and the European Union, which kicked off on June 19, are expected to wrap up before the end of March 2019.

"It's up to the United Kingdom government to work out with the DUP how it now proposes to move forward", a spokesperson for the Taoiseach has said this morning.

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At the summit, European leaders will decide whether enough progress has been made in the negotiations so far to open trade talks.

If a hard Brexit for most of the United Kingdom and a soft Brexit for Northern Ireland is out of the running because of the DUP, and a hard Brexit for the whole of the United Kingdom including Northern Ireland is out because of the border issue, that leaves only a soft Brexit for all of the UK.

In the latest letter, the 19 MPs - who largely backed Remain in the 2016 referendum - say they support the PM's handling of the negotiations, in particular the "political and practical difficulties" relating to the Irish border.

Conversations continued with the DUP, which scuppered a deal on the Irish border on Monday after balking at "regulatory alignment" planned between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The deadline can not be extended further than that as sherpas will start to plan the European Council summit on Monday. Mr Varadkar said the decision to proceed to the next phase may not be taken until the new year.

Scotland's nationalist leader showed little patience, accusing the British government of being "totally and utterly incompetent" on Brexit.

His reassurances come at a time when Britain's finance sector is anxious about losing the "passporting" rights which allow large worldwide banks to trade throughout the European Union while being based in Britain.

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