No-deal Brexit more and more likely

Any Brexit deal will still face the hurdle of a Commons vote

Shortly after at 6.45pm, Mrs May will meet Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

Eight ministers held a private meeting on Monday evening to discuss May's handling of Brexit.

Ministerial sources told Sky News "the most we can hope for is that they don't rule a November summit out".

Anyone hoping she was about to jet off to Brussels with the solutions that would break the Brexit deadlock will have been left fretting after this showing: the prime minister is floundering.

However seven senior members of her cabinet met last night in an apparent plot to undermine her plans.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that she still believes it's possible to conclude a "good and sustainable" agreement with Britain before its departure - but stressed Germany also is preparing for the risk of a no-deal departure.

Speaking to the Lords today, Mr Gove said: 'It might be the case - we've seen how European negotiations work - that progress is made at October council, progress is made at the November council, and it is even as late as the December council before a deal is done.

With wrangling over how to keep Northern Ireland's land border with the European Union open after Britain leaves the EU's customs and regulatory space, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said it was unlikely the 27 leaders would set a date for a special summit to seal a deal - as was the hope before talks stalled.

The attendees were Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, and perhaps most worrying for the prime minister, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.

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Ahead of her visit to Brussels, Mrs May was able to secure the backing of her Cabinet, at least for now, amid reports that some Brexiteer ministers were prepared to quit if she gave too much ground to Brussels.

Britain has proposed all of the United Kingdom could follow customs union rules to meet the backstop - but insists it should only be for a time-limited period.

She said the European Union also wanted its own plan involving only Northern Ireland to remain on the table as the ultimate insurance policy - a "backstop to the backstop".

May earlier told parliament in London she wanted any treaty that includes the Irish border issue linked to a separate declaration the two sides intend to issue on their intentions for a close EU-UK trade pact to be negotiated after Brexit.

Her assessment was largely backed by her European counterparts, who were keen to talk-up the chances of a deal.

As a result, the EU insists on having its own backstop - the backstop to the backstop - which would mean Northern Ireland would remain in the single market and customs union in the absence of a free trade deal, prompting fierce objections from Conservative hard Brexiters and the DUP, which props up her government.

He said in Luxembourg: "We will take this time, calmly and seriously, to find this global agreement in the next weeks".

"We can assume there will be no rebate, for example", said a senior European Union diplomat, referring to the discount on budget payments secured by Margaret Thatcher in 1984.

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