Britain's May says divorce deal with European Union nearly done

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab

The former Brexit secretary, David Davis, touted by some as a successor to May, wrote in The Mail on Sunday that "even the most charitable verdict on last week's Brexit talks in Brussels can hardly describe them as a success", because May appeared to endorse extending the transition period beyond December 2020.

But it is guaranteed to be explosive, given the unrest at her leadership and belief from her critics that they are rapidly approaching the 48 votes needed to trigger a no-confidence vote.

It has also been claimed that the prime minister will face a strong leadership challenge if a Brexit deal is not achieved by Christmas.

However, there were signs that a series of lurid briefings over the weekend by unnamed backbenchers calling for her to be "knifed" had backfired, causing MPs to rally behind her.

Although May called any extension "undesirable", she said there were some circumstances in which it could be desirable.

He said: "The prime minister is utterly humiliated and hamstrung by the extreme Brexiteers in her own party".

She stressed that in any circumstances the transition - now due to end at the end of 2020 - would have to be over "well before" the end of the parliament expected in June 2022.

Ministers lined up to criticise Theresa May's Brexit plans at a fraught Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, with one likening her proposals to Dante's first circle of hell.

She told ministers that European Council president Donald Tusk had declared himself ready to call a special Brexit summit if there was "decisive" progress in negotiations, which continue at official level in Brussels.

But, EU sources tell Reuters, negotiations this month saw the EU offer to strengthen that idea in the withdrawal treaty itself, bending an EU "red line" about pre-empting trade talks as part of an overall package deal to break the deadlock.

Mrs May told leaders of the remaining European Union member states in Brussels that she was willing to consider extending the transition period by a year.

The Confederation of British Industry says a majority of United Kingdom firms are poised to implement Brexit contingency plans by Christmas, steps that could include cutting jobs, adjusting supply chains outside the United Kingdom, stockpiling goods and relocating production and services overseas.

"From our point of view, what Ireland is looking for is what we have always been looking for from day one and what has been committed to by us and the UK Government in principle and in writing on a number of occasions now", said Mr Varadkar.

"My objective is to give businesses certainty as soon as we can".

EU negotiators, diplomats say, would play along with language to help May deny that it's a customs union - but she would have a lot of explaining to do on such a deal.

General secretary Mark Dickinson said: "Ministers must be living on another planet if they seriously believe they can find a fleet of suitable ships to keep the country supplied".

'If you think the current state of affairs is bad, just imagine what it would be like if there's no deal.

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