Theresa May calls on EU to make concessions as time runs out to strike Brexit deal
Theresa May will call on the European Union to make concessions on the Irish backstop as she launched a last-ditch bid to agree a new Brexit deal.
With barely 96 hours to go until the next meaningful vote, the Prime Minister will use a major speech to plead with Brussels to meet her halfway or risk Britain leaving without an agreement.
Talks between the Government and the EU in the past week have yielded little in the way of progress, with both sides still far apart of the vexed question of how to avoid the return of a hard border in Ireland.
The Prime Minister has pledged to give MPs another vote on her deal next Tuesday, and as things stand she is heading for another humiliating defeat.
Speculation is mounting that Mrs May could fly to Brussels as late as Monday morning in an attempt to secure some changes to the original deal, which was rejected by a record-breaking 230 votes in January.
In her speech to workers in Grimsby on Friday, she will say: "Just as MPs will face a big choice next week, the EU has to make a choice too. We are both participants in this process. It is in the European interest for the UK to leave with a deal.
"We are working with them but the decisions that the European Union makes over the next few days will have a big impact on the outcome of the vote."
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox flew to Brussels for talks earlier this week, but returned empty handed after "difficult" negotiations.
Mr Cox said: "These are very sensitive discussions. We are into the meat of the matter now. We have put forward some proposals, very reasonable proposals. We are now into the detail of the discussion.
“I can’t reveal the discussions. These are private and confidential discussions. Both sides have exchanged robust, strong views and we are now facing the real discussions. Talks will be resuming soon."
It has been reported that the EU has given the Government until Friday night to provide concrete proposals on how it proposes to avoid the backstop - which would see the UK remain in a customs union with the bloc - being triggered.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: "“It’s becoming increasingly clear that Theresa May will not be able to deliver the changes she promised to her failed Brexit deal. This speech looks set to be an admission of failure.
“After two years of negotiation, the Government is simply incapable of delivering a Brexit deal that protects jobs, the economy and people’s livelihoods.”