The European Commission’s president has warned Britain “patience runs out” in the clearest sign yet Brussels is prepared to cut its losses and accept a no-deal Brexit outcome in just 11 days’ time.
Jean-Claude Juncker made his comments last night, saying that while the EU now knows what Britain does not want, it is still waiting to hear “what it might say yes to”.
Speaking on Italian TV station RAI, Mr Juncker said the EU has shown that it has a lot of patience.
However, asked about the ongoing lack of clarity from London just less than a fortnight from the latest Brexit cliff edge, he added: “patience runs out”.
The concern is likely to dominate tomorrow’s meeting in Paris between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and French president Emmanuel Macron before a separate meeting on Thursday with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin.
With just 11 days to go until the latest Brexit deadline at 11pm on April 12, Ms May will today put seven deal alternative options, including a customs union and a second referendum, to MPs.
Should one or more of the options receive majority support, the British prime minister is expected to table her battered Brexit deal for a fourth time on Wednesday in a bid to finally drag it over the line.
However, while EU and Irish sources are hopeful the vital breakthrough can be achieved, they have acknowledged a no-deal Brexit will still be central to talks this week.
And with just 11 days to go before the Brexit divorce day, in a worst-case scenario, officials have confirmed that talks over a plan on how to avoid a hard border if this happens have “intensified” — with Brussels, Berlin and Paris all keen to hear detailed answers.
Government sources stressed last night that Mr Varadkar’s meetings with Mr Macron and Ms Merkel are not solely about the border, with discussions on the upcoming MEP elections and the EU’s future budget also on the agenda.
However, while also stressing Ms Merkel’s visit to Dublin was planned a number of weeks ago, they said it is inevitable the no-deal contingency planning will take centre stage.
Meanwhile, the Irish Examiner understands Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Britain’s deputy leader, David Lidington, have remained in contact over the weekend to update each other on ongoing developments.
The two politicians have held a number of conversations in recent weeks on the same matter, with both Irish and British sources saying the weekend phone calls focused on the risk of a snap UK election, the likelihood of the deal passing, and other Brexit options.
After European Council president Donald Tusk called an emergency summit next Wednesday, just two days before the potential no-deal Brexit deadline, Sinn Féin leaders Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill have travelled to Brussels today for talks with EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
In Ireland, it separately emerged last night that small hard-right pro-Brexit group the Irish Freedom Party has spent almost €40,000 on a billboard campaign promoting its activities.