Michel Barnier sets midnight deadline for Boris Johnson to get Brexit deal done
Boris Johnson has been given until midnight on Tuesday to thrash out a Brexit deal ahead of a crucial European summit.
The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier laid down the ultimatum as he urged the Prime Minister to put the finishing touches to the legal text setting out the final agreement.
According to Reuters, Mr Barnier briefed EU ministers that Mr Johnson's latest proposals were not acceptable to Brussels.
He said the detailed legal text must be put forward by the end of the day in order for a deal to be signed off at the two-day EU Council summit which kicks off on Thursday.
If that is not possible, there could then be another summit next week - but that would almost certainly mean the 31 October Brexit deadline being extended once again.
Mr Barnier told reporters: "Our teams are working hard and the work just starts now, today.
"This work has been intense all over the weekend and yesterday because even if the agreement will be difficult, more difficult to be frank, it is still possible this week."
He added: "Obviously any agreement must work for everyone, the whole of the UK and the whole of the EU.
"Let me add, it is also high time to turn good intensions into legal text.”
An EU official meanwhile told Reuters: "We need to land this tonight."
And Luxembourg’s foreign minister Jean Asselborn - who was present at the briefing with Mr Barnier - said: "There is some optimism, he is trying for a deal tonight. Otherwise, we will most probably need another summit later this month."
Mr Johnson - who last week put forward fresh plans to break the long-running deadlock over the future of the Irish border under Brexit - is hoping to sign off on a deal this week ahead of a possible vote in the House of Commons on Saturday.
Under the Benn Act passed by MPs last month, the Prime Minister must ask for a further Brexit extension beyond the current deadline if he cannot agree a deal by 19 October.
But he has repeatedly vowed to take Britain out of the EU "come what may" by the scheduled Hallowe'en exit date.
The Prime Minister's spokesperson on Tuesday declined to comment on the reported midnight deadline.
They said: "We are working hard. The Prime Minister is aware of the time constraints that we are under.
"We want to make progress towards securing a deal as soon as possible and we want to make progress ahead of the EU council on Thursday."