UK PM says still believes Brexit deal is 'achievable'

BRUSSELS BELGIUM- SEPTEMBER 10 External view of the building of the European Union EU

BRUSSELS BELGIUM- SEPTEMBER 10 External view of the building of the European Union EU

The clock is ticking down towards a summit of European leaders on Wednesday where it had been hoped a deal could be reached.

Underlining the economic importance of Brexit, the head of British-headquartered pharmaceutical maker AstraZeneca said it would keep its freeze on manufacturing investments in the country unless a deal provides clarity about future ties.

A Cabinet source told The Telegraph: "He said that the Treasury's legal advice was that if we left without a deal we would still have to pay the European Union £30-36bn because we would be unlikely to win any case that went to global arbitration".

He said: "We are not there yet".

"Nobody wants to ever trigger the backstop, but it needs to be there as an insurance mechanism to calm nerves that we're not going to see physical border infrastructure re-emerging", Coveney said.

Barnier's comment raised the prospect that a deal may not be done until a further summit later this year, and the talks could go to the wire or even collapse altogether and result in a "no deal" outcome.

With less than six months before Britain leaves the European Union, both sides are stepping up efforts to try to secure agreement on a draft withdrawal deal, setting out the terms of the divorce, a transition period and a solution to a new land border.

The EU has stuck to its position - a backstop to prevent a return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland can not be time-limited and can not include the whole of the United Kingdom remaining in the customs union.

He said it must be orderly for everyone, including Ireland, and a solution must be found to avoid a hard border.

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Eurosceptic lawmakers in her Conservative Party are also concerned about a backstop, fearing it could keep Britain in the EU's sphere of influence possibly forever and stop the country from striking new trade deals with the rest of the world.

On Tuesday Tusk described the Irish border question as a "Gordian knot" - a seemingly unsolvable problem that could only be resolved with bold actions. The ancient Greek warrior king Alexander the Great used his sword to slash through the knot when all else failed, according to the legend. "It looks like a new version of the Gordian knot", Tusk said in Brussels.

May's former foreign minister, Boris Johnson, the figurehead of Britain's Brexit campaign and one of the bookmakers' favourites to replace May, was equally critical.

European Union negotiators and leaders have said they won't accept Britain cherry-picking the best parts of European Union membership and leaving the obligations or unresolved issues out of the withdrawal agreement and the country's future relations with the bloc. European Council president Donald Tusk has described the summit as the "moment of truth", with "maximum progress" needed if a deal is to be clinched in time.

"Despite intense efforts, some key issues are still open", Barnier said on Twitter after his hour-long meeting with Raab.

However, other Conservative MPs, including Anna Soubry, have renewed their call for a second referendum or People's Vote, arguing a no-deal scenario would not pass through Parliament.

The DUP's objection to the PM's plans for a so-called Irish backstop centre on her acceptance of the need for regulatory checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom to allow free movement of goods.

The official cabinet meeting saw them served sausage, bacon and eggs, and not pizza, a Number 10 source said.

Other allies in the Democratic Unionist Party and opposition MPs in Labour and the Liberal Democrats also have doubts, which will make it very hard for Mrs May to get parliamentary backing for any Brexit deal.

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