European Union leaders gather for 'moment of truth' Brexit summit

Brendan Howlin said there has to be a clear determination set out by the Irish Government on the backstop issue

British Prime Minister Theresa May is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of the European Union leaders summit in Brussels on October 17.

Earlier, Macron said he wanted May to explain what kind of deal she could get through her government and parliament. "Only such proposals can determine if a breakthrough is possible".

A Cabinet source said yesterday that despite May's refusal to give in to European Union demands, ministers were very anxious by what she said to the House of Commons earlier that day, telling BI: "Pizza club should be interesting tonight".

May's cabinet have told her they will not accept either an indefinite backstop - or one that leaves Northern Ireland in a different regulatory regime.

The prime minister told the Commons she would expect it to expire in December 2021 but added she does not want to see the backstop having to be used at all.

And there is talk that a transition period for the U.K.to adapt to its new status as a third country could be extended by a year.

The summit also was meant to lay the groundwork for an additional planning meeting next month for the U.K.'s exit - though, as the BBC writes, it's possible that European Union leaders will formally say they are going to use the November gathering to prepare for that no-deal scenario.

Maybe - but it is unlikely to bring about the concrete agreement hoped for.

In a recent speech, the newspaper reports that Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon called for Scotland to be allowed to stay a member of the EU's single market, should Northern Ireland obtain a special deal.

The "backstop" refers to a commitment from both sides that even if Britain exits without a comprehensive deal, there will never be a hard border between Northern Ireland, which would leave as part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, which will remain part of the European Union.

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".

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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.

But two of those present at the "pizza summit" in the office of Andrea Leadsom played down suggestions of rebellion against the Prime Minister.

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire optimistically declared "we are not far from a deal" on the morning of the summit. I remain confident of a good outcome.

But the damage would be devastating to her and her party's reputation from the formal outbreak of Tory civil war.

Also understood to have attended the meeting were Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and staunch Brexiteers Michael Gove, Chris Grayling and Geoffrey Cox, as well as two ministers who backed Remain in the 2016 referendum, Jeremy Hunt and Liz Truss.

Theresa May faces a Brexit showdown with restless Cabinet ministers on Tuesday morning.

Meeting Juncker was the first of several one-on-one meetings on May's schedule before she addressed her 27 European Union counterparts on bringing the negotiations over Britain's departure to completion.

"We need much time, much more time and we continue to work in the next weeks", EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

The Prime Minister responded by saying the Government would take "the needs of the British economy" into account when considering future immigration policies.

Belgium's foreign minister, Didier Reynders, put the chances of the United Kingdom crashing out without a deal at "50/50".

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