Any minute now, a settlement on the issue of the Irish border could be agreed, or at least we hope so.  The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has told EU member states that the British government must agree a deal over the Irish border by tomorrow. Since now is Thursday, and an agreement needs to be tabled by tomorrow, the pressure is on. As the Guardian joked, “Perhaps we will get a settlement within the next few hours, although it is starting to look as elusive as the government’s Brexit impact reports.”

There were signs that things were progressing, and May promised the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar that on Wednesday or Thursday she will have for him new proposals to consider. 

Varadkar was hopeful that there was “room to manoeuvre” and get an agreement before the European council summit next week. He said: “Having consulted with people in London, [Theresa May] wants to come back to us with text tonight and tomorrow. And I expect to move forward as well – I want us to move forward if it’s possible next week.” He added that he “agreed to look at any text with a positive and open” attitude and was willing to discuss with the Democratic Unionist Party to settle the dispute over the references to “regulatory alignment” and its meanings.

But, the clock is ticking and, if on Friday the UK fails to agree a joint position with the European Commission, then member states won’t be able to scrutinise the proposal in their respective parliaments before next week’s European council meeting.

If talks don’t move on in December, then May will have to wait until the next council meeting in March, something that will increase anxiety in the UK over the state of the economy and firms’ future plans.

While an emergency meeting in January or February to discuss moving on in phase two and the conditions of a transition period is a possibility, this would also come amidst uncertainty and growing insecurity by different sectors of the economy and businesses.

Leavers Vs. Remainers

While the uncertainties surrounding the DUP deal and the Irish border are making things difficult for May, senior Brexiteer MPs are warning that the UK will miss out on opportunities regarding trade deals if the country continues to be burdened and restricted by the EU’s regulations. While these Brexiteers want May to leave without a deal, 19 other Tory MPs want May to continue fighting in order to get a good deal for a soft Brexit.

Nicky Morgan and 18 other Tories condemned the Brexiteers for their “highly irresponsible” attitude towards leaving without a deal.

She said that the PM should ignore the “siren” calls of Eurosceptic MPs: “What we’re saying in this letter is look Prime Minster we think you’ll make the right decisions for the country. It’s important to get on to phase two, don’t listen to the siren voices.” She added that “If these talks continue to be difficult, which negotiations often are, it would be highly irresponsible to just get up and walk away.”

The Remainers stood by May and praised her position for highlighting the importance of a “deep and special relationship with the EU,” which will help bring people from both camps of the Brexit debate together.