Tensions rise as European Union prepares for final Brexit stretch

Video Matthias Schrader EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, arrives at the informal EU summit in Salzburg Aus

Theresa May's Brexit plan "will not work" the EU's 27 leaders have told her in a major blow to her chances of securing a deal on Britain's future relationship with the EU.

But Mrs May said Chequers was "the only credible and negotiable plan on the table that delivers no hard border in Northern Ireland and also delivers on the vote of the British people".

"Limiting damage caused by Brexit is a shared interest, Unfortunately, a no-deal scenario is still quite possible", warned Donald Tusk, President of the European Council.

"If there is no agreement on a deal that is acceptable to the United Kingdom, then we're preparing for no deal", May said.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday the government was confident Parliament would back a Brexit deal agreed by May and the EU. "It took place in June of 2016".

Irish PM Leo Varadkar appears to share that opinion, telling reporters in Dublin last night: "As things stand, we are planning for a situation in 2021 where there will need to be east-west checks and controls, though not between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland".

At our EU27 working lunch today we had a good discussion on Brexit, which once again reconfirmed our full unity.

- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his country is better prepared for a no-deal Brexit than Britain and an agreement is "not easy" because of Mrs May's red lines.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel added: "It is an agreement, so we both have to find a compromise".

Among these were the topics of a hard border, internal security and migration.

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"She is playing a game of Russian Roulette with the country which is frankly an insult to the referendum result and all those people who voted, no matter how they voted".

If an agreement is to be sealed by March 29, May and her European Union partners must find an acceptable answer in coming weeks so parliaments have enough time to ratify the agreement.

Another Tory MP, Remain-backing Grant Shapps, called on May to withhold the UK's £39billion "divorce" settlement if no deal was reached.

The prime minister was thrown on to the defensive - just over a week before the Conservative party conference - when European Union leaders led by Donald Tusk and Emmanuel Macron rejected her Chequers plan as it stood, prompting hard Brexit Conservatives to demand it be abandoned. He later argued that the prime minister now needed to abandon her plan and instead pursue "a Canada plus free trade deal".

The biggest single obstacle to a deal is the need to maintain an open border between the UK's Northern Ireland and European Union member Ireland.

Keir Starmer MP, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, said: "It has been clear for weeks that Theresa May's Chequers' proposals can not deliver the comprehensive plan we need to protect jobs, the economy and avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland".

Chief among them was Tuesday's revelation by BMW, first reported by Sky News, that it would shut down manufacturing at its Mini plant outside Oxford for a month after Brexit day next year because of the potential for supply chain disruption.

This comes despite other comments that Chequers has some "positive elements".

But pro-Brexit firebrand Nigel Farage responded on Twitter saying: "EU bosses want us to have a second referendum, quelle surprise".

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