Brexit talks: Now is the time for a deal, May tells EU

A 'Leave Means Leave' campaign billboard urging Prime Minister Theresa May to scrap her Chequers Brexit proposal driven around Westminster on the back of a van today

Tajani said he raised with May the possibility that the post-Brexit transition period, during which Britain would retain European Union rules and avoid border problems with Ireland, could be extended by a year to 2021 - something European Union negotiators proposed to soften a demand for special rules for Northern Ireland.

His comments come days after reports that Brexit talks have run into a "significant problem" over the issue of the Northern Ireland border.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which is propping up Mrs May's government in Westminster, said the EU's backstop suggestion whereby Northern Ireland would continue to follow the bloc's rules if no trade deal is struck would create barriers with Great Britain.

Instead, the matter could either be pushed back to December or - more dramatically - the European Union could use the November weekend to meet on preparations for a "no-deal" Brexit.

The meeting in Brussels was supposed to be the occasion when the leaders of the European Union 27 member states gave the green light for a special summit in November to finalise the terms of Britain's withdrawal.

Her official spokesman later told reporters: "The Cabinet strongly supported her on the importance of maintaining the integrity of the Union and agreed that we must ensure we can not be kept in a backstop arrangement indefinitely".

"Later at 27, we will decide on how to take the negotiations forward, on the basis of a recommendation by our chief negotiator, Michel Barnier".

May was preparing to address other EU leaders one day after European Council President Donald Tusk implored her to present new ideas for resolving the tricky problem of how to keep the land border between the Republic of Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland friction-free once Britain no longer is an EU member.

BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley, in Brussels, said European Union sources suggested the PM had given a "relatively positive assessment" and while there was goodwill on both sides "we are not where we would have liked to be".

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The return to a hard border in Northern Ireland would be a "political failure" by both the British government and the European Union, a former head of the Army has said. Brexit must be orderly for everyone and for all the issues including the island of Ireland.

The cabinet meeting yesterday did not consider a specific wording on any deal, nor make any decisions, but was a discussion about the negotiations and unity.

"I don't think it will happen, I don't want it to happen, it would be a disaster if it did happen, it must not happen".

"Any informed person knows that the Northern Ireland Office has just completed an extensive consultation on the legacy of the past, which is something that we are still finding very challenging 20 years on from the Good Friday Agreement", she continued. She said: "We realise that the technical agreement of last week was not accepted in London".

Michael Gove admitted today the Brexit deal might not be done until December.

"We want to secure a deal as quickly as possible".

However, a senior United Kingdom official insisted: "the prime minister has a clear mandate to negotiate and there is a clear position which has been set out, which the cabinet is firmly backing".

Tusk has made it clear that if May and Barnier do not offer signs of concrete progress towards a draft deal he will not call a November summit to sign it. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said the need for progress was "urgent".

At a three-hour cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, which included ministers with reservations about her strategy, May said a deal was possible if they all stood together.

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