Theresa May’s late-night call to Brussels in final bid for "sufficient progress"

Catherine Neilan
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Theresa May Visits The West Midlands
May is trying to reach agreement on avoiding a hard border in Ireland (Source: Getty)

Prime Minister Theresa May was last night poised to make an early hours dash to Brussels today in the event of a breakthrough on the Irish border impasse holding up Brexit talks.

Negotiations between Brussels and London stretched late into the night, in the hope that the two sides could nail down a Brexit deal before an early morning press conference.

European Council President Donald Tusk revealed last night he would give a speech to media at 6:50am today but gave no indication of what he would say, beyond an update on Brexit.

Read more: The Irish border issue tells us what the government wants from Brexit

May spoke with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in separate telephone calls last night, in an attempt to reach agreement on avoiding a hard border in Ireland and keep the Brexit schedule on track.

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. Some of the text in the updated proposal is expected to be tweaked to appease the DUP, but the “core” will stay to keep Dublin onside.

The border impasse must be broken before the European Commission agrees “sufficient progress” has been made to let talks move on to trade.

Read more: City patience over Brexit wears thin as DUP impasse continues

However, if the impasse is not broken that does not mean the chances of the European Council agreeing “sufficient progress” are completely dead.

Yesterday the Commission's spokesman Margaritis Schinas indicated that window could be pushed - albeit slightly - as there was no "white smoke" on the deal yet.

While insisting a deal must be put forward this week, Schinas told reporters: "In this building, we work for a full week, 24/7, and our week includes Sunday."

The deadline cannot be extended further than that as sherpas will start to plan the European Council summit on Monday.

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