Is the United Kingdom finally close to agreeing a Brexit deal?

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A lavish dinner in the opulent setting of the Felsenreitschul theatre in Salzburg on Wednesday failed to smooth the way.

In a press conference just minutes after Tusk publicly shot down her plan, a visibly angry May called on the European Union to put a counter-offer on the table that would keep the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland "frictionless".

President of European Council Donald Tusk (left) and the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

Today's commentary does not suggest that there has been a material downgrade in the prospect of an agreement being reached, because, as UK Prime Minister Theresa May said earlier, there will not be a second referendum as things now stand; the UK will Brexit, it just depends if it's the "soft" or "hard" variety. The entire Brexit project was sold to the British people by "liars" who immediately fled the stage, unwilling to see their project through.

The European Council on October 18 is the deadline for substantial progress towards a Brexit deal, giving the prime minister just 28 days to find a plan palatable to her party, MPs and the EU.

May had already been forewarned of what they would say a few minutes earlier in a private meeting with Tusk, which she conceded was "frank".

May however said her Brexit plan is the "only serious and credible" proposal on the table that can guarantee the frictionless movement of goods across borders, and ensure there is no return to a hard frontier between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, said May had a chance to change course and pursue a Canada-style free trade deal that would not involve signing up to the common rule book: "It is clear what the European Union tactics are now". May has said "no British Prime Minister could accept" such a plan as it would undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom.

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Mr Tusk said of the so-called Chequers proposals: "the suggested framework for economic cooperation will not work, not least because it risks undermining the single market".

If no deal can be found with the European Union, and with Theresa May having already promised Parliament a meaningful say on the final deal, the scenario is now looking extremely likely to cause an unprecedented constitutional crisis. Neither side wants an arrangement that would require the rebuilding of border infrastructure, the removal of which was a key part of the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland after years of sectarian strife.

I think most of us would welcome a situation where there is the possibility of the British people putting things into perspective, seeing what has been negotiated, seeing the options and then deciding once and for all.

"Brexit is. pushed by those who predicted easy solutions", he said. Discussions are focussing on the future partnership, the final phase of talks, potentially including a further summit in November, and resolving the long-running issue of how to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Given that the latter is more likely, it's time for a General Election so the British People can make their views clear.

Number 10 had not hoped for a breakthrough at this summit in Salzburg.

Appearing to take aim at politicians such as Boris Johnson and David Davis, Macron told a news conference: "Those who explain that we can easily live without Europe, that everything is going to be alright, and that it's going to bring a lot of money home are liars".

Tusk, meanwhile, said that the upcoming October summit would be the "moment of truth" for reaching a deal, and that "if the conditions are there" another summit would be held in November to "formalize" it. May faces a rough ride at the Conservative party conference in a few weeks, with challengers to her leadership waiting in the wings.

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