UK Brexit agreement deal set to be announced

The meeting between Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier lasted just one hour

The meeting between Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier lasted just one hour

But pro-Brexit ministers in May's Tory party - including Raab - are determined to make sure any such arrangement has a strict end date, to avoid Britain being trapped inside European Union rules and tariffs indefinitely.

The country's foreign minister Michael Roth said it was braced for "the worst" and that "we would not be preparing so hard for "no deal" if the outlook was more optimistic".

A flurry of diplomatic meetings over the weekend had raised hopes for an agreement on Britain's divorce from the bloc.

But she said the position of the Fine Gael-led minority government, of Fianna Fáil, and the EU's negotiating team lead by Michel Barnier is that the border in Ireland has to be part of the withdrawal treaty.

The surprise announcement of the meeting between Mr Raab and Mr Barnier fuelled rumours a deal was set to be done ahead of this week's European Council meeting.

In particular, she needed to be able to guarantee the public that any backstop was a "temporary solution" and without the "backstop to a backstop" arrangement being proposed by the European Union as the only viable solution as the clock ticks down to the March 29 deadline, when Britain is set to leave the EU.

The Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also warned that an agreement could still be two months away, arguing that November or December presented "the best opportunity for a deal".

Meanwhile, May made a statement to the House of Commons to address what she called "inaccurate speculation" about the Brexit talks.

But senior European Union sources said a final deal had yet to be agreed for leaders to approve this week, with some adding that the EU's timetable before Wednesday's summit would now have to shift.

The Irish border is an acutely sensitive issue, with some fearing any return to customs checks and other controls could revive tensions between Northern Ireland's Irish Catholic community and its British U.K. Protestant one.

"The deal is definitely going to be pushed back to November, if it happens at all", the source said.

On Tuesday, a German official repeated the EU's line that the backstop needed to be legally watertight and without it there would be no Brexit deal. "However, there remain a number of unresolved issues relating to the backstop", it read.

"We were actually pretty hopeful that we would manage to seal an exit agreement".

In Paris, Macron said: "I believe in our collective intelligence, so I think we can make progress", but added that "we are ready for all scenarios".

But, speaking in Brussels, Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the changing timetable didn't worry him.

"I think this is obviously a hard period", British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt told reporters as he arrived for a scheduled meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council.

The Brexit negotiations are in a deep freeze over how to ensure the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic stays open if no full-blown trade deal is struck by the end of transition in 2020 - the so-called backstop.

The transition extension would nearly certainly ensure that the Brussels backstop proposal, where Northern Ireland remains within the EU's customs union and single market after Brexit, will never be enacted.

The EU's suggestion would see Northern Ireland remain aligned with Brussels' rules, thus varying from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Planned talks this week in Luxembourg are on hold and no additional negotiations are planned.