Donald Tusk demands 'concrete proposals' from Theresa May to break Brexit deadlock
Donald Tusk has demanded Theresa May produce "concrete proposals" on how to solve the Irish border row as he wrote off the chances of a Brexit deal being agreed at a crunch EU summit this week.
The EU Council president said there were "no grounds for optimism" ahead of the get-together, which kicks off in Brussels on Wednesday evening.
His comments were a further blow for Theresa May, who earlier urged her Cabinet not to split as she tries to secure a withdrawal agreement.
Mr Tusk, who on Tuesday said the chances of a no-deal Brexit were "closer than ever", said: "Unfortunately the report on the state of the negotiations that I got from Michel Barnier today, as well as yesterday’s debate in the House of Commons, gives me no grounds for optimism before tomorrow’s European council on Brexit.
"As I see it, the only source of hope for a deal for now is the goodwill and determination on both sides. However, for a breakthrough to take place, besides goodwill we need new facts.
"Tomorrow I am going to ask Prime Minister May whether she has concrete proposals on how to break the impasse. Only such proposals can determine if a breakthrough is possible."
Mr Tusk, who said the EU was now stepping up its preparations for a no-deal Brexit, added: "The problem is clear. It is still the Irish question and the problem of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
"It looks like a new version of the Gordian knot. Unfortunately, I can't see a new version of Alexander the Great."
The EU Council chief also raised doubts that an emergency Brexit summit mooted for November, at which a deal would be finalised, would even happen.
That raised the possibility of the negotiations continuing until the next scheduled summit in December - just three months before the UK is meant to leave the EU.
Mrs May's Cabinet spent two-and-a-half hours debating Brexit this morning, but the meeting broke up without any decisions being made on the Government's position.
She told them: "I am convinced that if we as a government stand together and stand firm we can achieve this."
Her spokesman said: "The Prime Minister said there will no doubt be challenging moments ahead, that is in the nature of challenging negotiations. She said she is committed to ensuring a Brexit that delivers on the referendum result, safeguards jobs and security and which preserves our Union."
Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, of the Best for Britain campaign group, said: "No deal will be catastrophic for the UK and yet the Prime Minister continues to prioritise the ideology of Conservative Brexiteers over a pragmatic solution to the question of the Irish Border. The Government today has been dealt a Brexit blow by Tusk.
"With the Government now postponing legislation because they fear defeat, it is clear that they have run out of ideas on how to move the country forward. It is high time the Prime Minister called a people’s vote or a general election, so that the public can ensure the economy doesn’t hurtle over a cliff edge."