Boris Johnson failed to achieve a “New York breakthrough” on Brexit in a meeting with European Council president Donald Tusk.
The British Prime Minister had downplayed his chances of securing a new deal ahead of meetings with key EU leaders during the United Nations General Assembly.
After leaving their bilateral meeting on Monday, Mr Tusk lamented that there had been “no breakthrough” and that there is “no time to lose” with the October 31 deadline looming.
The PM had told Mr Tusk that the UK needs “to see movement and flexibility from the EU” in order to reach a deal, according to Downing Street.
An EU source said the meeting was “sincere and open” but stressed that there were “big gaps in substance”.
“If there is to be a deal, there is little time left, although no formal deadline.
“The EU will need realistic, operational proposals in legal form,” the source continued.
“The UK non-papers do not meet the objectives of the backstop.”
Those “non-papers” shared by the UK focus on the agri-food zone, customs issues and on manufactured goods.
The PM then met German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said it is difficult to see how the impasse over the Northern Ireland backstop can be overcome.
Mr Barnier said the EU “remains open to talks and progress”, but that the UK side had yet to come forward with proposals which could offer the basis of a solution.
“Based on current UK thinking, it is difficult to see how we can arrive at a legally operative solution which fulfils all the objectives of the backstop,” he said, following talks in Berlin with German foreign minister Heiko Maas.
Mr Johnson has said that he wants Britain to leave the EU with a deal on October 31 – the current EU deadline – but is adamant that the backstop to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland must be scrapped.
Ahead of a meeting with the PM on Tuesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said any hard border on the island of Ireland post-Brexit
His comments came after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that border checks will be an inevitable consequence of a no-deal Brexit.
On the flight to the States, the PM had downplayed his chances, telling reporters: “There might be, but I don’t wish to elevate excessively the belief that there will be a New York breakthrough.”