The UK has been urged to submit fresh proposals within the next 48 hours to break the Brexit impasse. EU officials said they would work non-stop over the weekend if “acceptable” ideas were received by Friday to break the deadlock over the Irish backstop. The UK has said “reasonable” proposals to satisfy MPs’ concerns about being tied to EU rules had already been made. Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned Brexiteers to vote for the PM’s deal or face a delay to Brexit. The PM is seeking legally-enforceable changes to the backstop – an insurance policy designed to prevent physical checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but there have been few visible signs of progress. MPs are due to vote for a second time on the Brexit deal next week. If they reject the deal again, they will get to choose between leaving without a deal or deferring the UK’s exit from the EU beyond the scheduled date of 29 March. Speaking to reporters Mr Hammond refused to be drawn on how he would vote if Mrs May’s deal is defeated. “If the prime minister’s deal does not get approved on Tuesday then it is likely that the House of Commons will vote to extend the Article 50 procedure, to not leave the European Union without a deal, and where we go thereafter is highly uncertain,” he added.
“For those people who are passionate about ensuring that we leave the European Union on time it surely must be something that they need to think very, very carefully about now because they run risk of us moving away from their preferred course of action if we don’t get this deal through.” What we heard from the chancellor this morning was that he was clear about the uncertainties ahead and rather unclear (cagey, in fact) about how he might vote when it came to decision-time about a no-deal. There was an explicit warning to Brexiteers: vote for the prime minister’s deal because otherwise, it’s delay and a soft Brexit. As one minister expressed to me yesterday, they believe the vote does have a chance of getting through because Brexiteers will realise just in time that it’s either the PM’s deal next week, or what this minister described as “soft, softer, then meltdown”. But across government, the mood is not optimistic about what’s going to happen next week and most ministers are expecting a defeat. French Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau reiterated the EU’s position that the withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened and said the deal was the “best possible solution” with the controversial Irish backstop a “last resort solution”. She said: “We don’t like the backstop, we don’t want to have to implement it, and if we have to, we don’t want to stay in the backstop. “We all agree that it should be temporary.”