Theresa May is facing a Brexit race against time amid reports of a fresh Tory plot to oust her.
The Prime Minister has just one week left before a crunch EU summit, where 27 leaders will decide if she’s made “sufficient progress” in Brexit talks.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is said to have told officials she has 48 hours to cough up a new solution for the Northern Ireland border – the key sticking point.
Irish premier Leo Varadkar revealed Mrs May wanted to hand him a new agreement text last night or today.
“I expect to move forward as well – I want us to move forward if it’s possible next week,” he told reporters.
The Tory leader could make a flying visit to Brussels as soon as today in a bid to get agreement ahead of next week’s European Council summit.
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was confident a deal would be reached in time – allowing Britain to move on to ‘Phase 2’, talking about trade.
But the PM is still deadlocked in talks with the DUP , who reacted furiously to her solution for the Northern Ireland border.
Mrs May’s Unionist allies, whose 10 MPs prop her up in power, shot down plans to let Northern Ireland have “regulatory alignment” with the Republic to avoid the return of border checks.
They argue this kind of special deal would open a rift with the rest of the UK and be the first step to a united Ireland.
One DUP source told The Sun: “We’re going to slow it all down.
“This is a battle of who blinks first – and we’ve cut off our eyelids.”
Tory Brexiteers also publicly admonished Theresa May in the Commons yesterday – amid reports of a plot to oust her.
The Leavers back the DUP’s stance because they fear any special deal for Northern Ireland will bleed across to the rest of Britain – leaving us with a ‘soft Brexit’.
One, Jacob Rees-Mogg, warned the PM’s red lines were “beginning to look a little bit pink”.
Even Mrs May’s own Brexit Secretary David Davis, who is accused of lying to Parliament after admitting he’d prepared no impact assessments of leaving the EU, is said to be plotting.
Allies of the embattled minister are reportedly inviting rising stars to drinks to sound out his prospects.
Plotters told two newspapers she could be out by Christmas.
One ally told MP colleagues: “Theresa has the smell of death around her.”
Remain-backing Tories have hit back at their Brexiteer colleagues, with 19 writing to Theresa May urging her not to let backbenchers “impose their own conditions”.
That means the Prime Minister is caught in the middle of a split in her own party.
The EU has demanded agreement on three issues – the rights of 3.2million EU citizens in Britain, the Northern Ireland border and the ‘divorce bill’ – before trade talks can start.
Britain is already past its original deadline of kick-starting trade talks in October. And if this bid fails, the next European Council is only at the end of March 2018.
Mrs May has signalled the Northern Ireland issue will drag on well into next year – even if EU leaders sign on the bottom line next week.
She told MPs yesterday: “We aim to deliver this as part of our overall trade deal between the UK and the EU, and we can only talk about that when we get into phase 2.”
Meanwhile, in a blow to Brexiteers, Remain-backing Chancellor Philip Hammond said Britain will still have to pay a ‘divorce bill’ even if there’s no deal.
He also revealed the Cabinet have not yet had a full discussion about what we want Britain’s “end state position” to be after we leave the EU.
Brexit-backing colleague Chris Grayling hit back, claiming there had been “detailed discussions” in the Cabinet.
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