British PM May briefed inner cabinet 'Brexit deal close'

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas updated reporters on Mr Barnier's comments

There have been reports the prime minister may be preparing to concede on this point, speculation that has sparked talk of possible ministerial resignations if Mrs May is viewed to be giving too much ground to the EU.

Negotiations between the two sides have focused on the proposals for a so-called "backstop" to ensure that there is no return to a "hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Britain has left the bloc.

Speaking to Northern Ireland journalists at her Downing Street office, May said on Thursday that talks on the Irish backstop were likely to continue until November.

Theresa May must abandon her plans for free trade deals with the rest of the world in order to get a Brexit deal, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said yesterday.

The EU wants it to apply to Northern Ireland only, effectively keeping the country in the single market and customs union to avoid the need for customs checks.

A number of ministers, including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, were said to have raised concerns during the meeting which lasted around an hour-and-a-half.

"I think that's something which is no longer appropriate".

Barnier warned that companies will have to adjust even if there is a Brexit deal.

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But Tory MP Helen Grant, a Tory vice chairwoman, told the BBC's Politics Live: "I think they're bluffing".

The rebate, negotiated by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, sees a 66% reduction applied to the UK's net contribution to the European Union budget.

"When we come back with a deal, I would hope that everybody across this whole House will put the national interest first", May said on Thursday, in an appeal for unity.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was struggling on Friday to find consensus on Brexit proposals that would be acceptable to her ministers, her Conservative Party and the Northern Irish lawmakers who prop up her minority government.

Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK's former ambassador to the European Union, dismissed both options in a speech in Cambridge, saying the chances of the EU agreeing to either was "precisely zero" and that there had been "culpable naivety" in the negotiations.

However, she declined to say whether any end date could be included in the agreement, the final details of which are being decided in Brussels over the weekend.

The South Belfast MP added that if a "sensible Brexit" was not delivered, the DUP's support for Mrs May would not be forthcoming.

On Wednesday, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said there would have to be checks on goods travelling to Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, because they would effectively be arriving in the EU's single market if there was no hard border with the Republic of Ireland. Checks of animals and animal-derived products would still have to take place between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom and cover all of that trade.

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