European Union leader's scathing put-down sums up Theresa May's Brexit talks

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"I stand ready to convene a European Council on Brexit, if and when the EU negotiator reports that decisive progress has been made", Tusk said.

After her Chequers plan for Brexit was humiliatingly rejected at the last European Union summit in Salzburg last month and efforts to seal a last-minute deal foundered last weekend over the EU's demand for a "backstop" to avoid a hard border in Ireland, Mrs May was fighting to keep the door open for an agreement to deliver an orderly withdrawal.

The DUP's deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, also heaped pressure on the under-fire prime minister with further criticism of the proposal to extend the transition period, stressing that it offers "nothing significant" on the backstop proposals.

"But the point is that this is not expected to be used, because we are working to ensure that we have that future relationship in place by the end of December 2020".

"In those circumstances, there would be no need for any proposal of this sort and I'm clear that I expect the implementation period to end at the end of December 2020".

But she said she had found "a very real sense that people want that deal done" among her fellow leaders.

Mrs May replied by insisting she is fighting for a "good" outcome for the UK.

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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.

'When we come back with a deal I would hope everybody in this House would put the national interest first, ' she said.

Mr Barnier said that problems over Ireland could lead to the failure of Brexit talks.

Meanwhile, former Brexit secretary David Davis warned of 'dire'consequences for Conservatives at the next general election if the Government sticks to its negotiating stance on European Union withdrawal.

Merkel said countries were preparing for no deal, but "purposely did not want to discuss this in detail" on Wednesday night, "because we did not want to give the impression we were focusing on this".

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The prime minister remained bullish of a Brexit deal coming eventually.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May stood firm Thursday in the face of stinging domestic criticism, saying the United Kingdom and the European Union could overcome their "few but considerable" disagreements over Brexit.

Britain crashing out of the European Union without an agreement is viewed as potentially catastrophic as tariffs, customs and regulatory issues could severely disrupt trade.

This morning the London Times reported that France and Germany had "instructed Michel Barnier to be "more flexible" with Theresa May in a final push to solve the Irish border question".

Former Brexit Minister Baker's amendments would have to be considered and voted on by a Parliamentary Committee before the legislation could be voted on, meaning the government would have to decide in favour of the backstop to stop the amendments, effectively creating different rules for Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK.

It now depends on whether May can sell such an extension to the contingent of strong Brexiteers among the Conservative benches as well as to the 10 MPs from the Democratic Unionist Party who shore up her minority government.

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