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Brexit deal timeline slips again as EU scraps plan for November summit sign-off

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Leaders of the EU27 agree not to push ahead with a special summit next month amid a continuing impasse in the UK's exit talks.

It had previously been hoped this week's gathering of EU leaders would provide the breakthrough needed for Brexit talks to be wrapped up at a specially-convened summit next month.

However, with an impasse still remaining over the Irish border issue, the planned Brexit timeline has slipped again to mean all eyes will now turn to an already scheduled EU summit on 13 and 14 December.

Sky sources revealed EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the bloc's leaders during their dinner he needs "a lot more time than just a couple of weeks" in order to strike an agreement.

Member states were also asked to work with even more vigour on planning for a "no-deal" Brexit, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte revealed.

Before they dined on pan-fried mushrooms and turbot fillet, the prime minister told EU27 leaders of the need for "courage, trust and leadership on both sides" in the final stages of divorce negotiations.

"We've shown we can do difficult deals together constructively," she said. "I remain confident of a good outcome."

Mrs May spoke for around 15 to 20 minutes on Thursday evening, before departing for her own fish supper separate from EU27 leaders; as she joined the UK's ambassador in Brussels.

The prime minister was praised for her body language and tone by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, which he contrasted with September's acrimonious informal summit in Salzburg.

But, he accused Mrs May of offering "nothing substantively new in terms of content" towards reaching a deal.

Mr Tajani also revealed the prime minister told EU leaders she will "keep under consideration" the possibility of extending the Brexit transition period - perhaps for another 12 months - although he added Mrs May offered a "neutral" opinion on such a scenario.

"She did not say anything in favour or against the three-year period," he said.

An extension to the Brexit transition period would allow more time for a future EU-UK trade agreement to be reached, with it suggested this could help de-escalate the current crisis over a backstop solution to the Irish border - the issue blocking progress in negotiations.

A senior EU source revealed Mrs May told EU leaders she could countenance an extension to the transition period, although other sources stressed the prime minister made no direct request for such an outcome.

Before she addressed EU leaders, the prime minister held a series of one-on-one meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

On their arrival at the Brussels summit, both EU leaders and Mrs May had expressed positivity about the chances of reaching an agreement and averting a "no-deal" Brexit.

The prime minister said: "I believe everybody around the table wants to get a deal and by working intensively and closely, we can achieve that deal.

"I believe a deal is achievable and now's the time to make it happen."

However, Lithuanian President Dalia GrybauskaitÄ— suggested Mrs May's struggle to forge a consensus among her own Conservative MPs was to blame for Brexit difficulties.

"Today, we do not know what they want," she said. "They do not know themselves what they really want. That is the problem."

EU leaders will reconvene for talks on migration and security on Friday
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