Brexit deal 'essentially impossible' says Downing Street, blames Angela Merkel

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are seen ahead of their news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin Germany

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are seen ahead of their news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin Germany

The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says these could include leaving without a deal, and halting Brexit altogether. Keir Starmer, Brexit spokesman for the main opposition Labour Party, said the Downing Street statement was "yet another cynical attempt by No. 10 to sabotage the negotiations", using the shorthand for the prime minister's office.

A No 10 source has said a Brexit deal is "essentially impossible" after a call between the PM and Angela Merkel.

The need to keep Northern Ireland in the European customs union - at least until the United Kingdom finds another suitable way to control goods flowing across the Irish border without the need for additional checks - has been the EU's position since the start of the Brexit negotiations.

The bloc says the proposals - which would require customs checks on some goods moving between Northern Ireland and Ireland - don't fulfill the UK's commitment to a frictionless Irish border.

In Berlin, Ms Merkel's office said it would not comment "on such confidential discussions".

Norbert Rottgen, an ally of the chancellor who is chair of the Bundestag's Foreign Affairs Committee, said there was "no new German position".

The pound was down 0.5% at $1.2226.

The EU was scathing about Johnson's stance.

A frustrated Mr Tusk accused Britain of playing with "the future of Europe and the UK" with no clear plan of what the country wanted.

"You don't want a deal".

The briefings attributed to Cummings had suggested that Varadkar had gone back on his word by attacking Johnson's proposals for the Irish border, which involve a customs border on the island of Ireland and Northern Ireland staying in the single market for goods.

European Parliament President David Sassoli said after meeting Johnson on Tuesday there had been no progress in the Brexit talks.

An array of remarks by unidentified British sources laid bare just how far apart the two sides are after three years of tortuous haggling over the first departure of a sovereign state from the EU.

Brexit talks are now reaching a critical moment, a British spokesman said in Brussels where Johnson's Brexit negotiator David Frost was in meetings with European Union officials.

An unnamed cabinet minister cited by the newspaper said that a "very large number" of Conservative members of parliament will quit if it comes to a no-deal Brexit.

He said: "In my mind it is completely improbable that the phone call between Merkel and Johnson took place in the way it has been reported in the British media".

But Ireland braced for the worst with a no-deal Brexit budget while Britain announced its no-deal tarrif plan and updated on it preparations for a no-deal exit - the nightmare scenario for many big businesses. Without that, Johnson has vowed to take Britain out of the European Union by the month's end. He has also repeatedly demanded an election but parliament has refused to grant one.

In Scotland, a fresh legal case was being heard on Tuesday under little-used "Nobile Officium" legislation - known as "Nob-Off" proceedings - in which petitioners are asking that a court send the Brexit delay request to the European Union if Johnson refuses.

"This government will not negotiate further so any delay would be totally pointless", the source was quoted as saying.

With an extension of the UK's European Union membership now looking inevitable, other diplomatic sources suggested an unlikely outlier for an end date could even be ahead of a possible general election so as to force the Commons into accepting a deal.

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