The European Union has given UK Prime Minister Theresa May a 10-day “absolute deadline” to improve Brexit divorce offer.
Otherwise the country would face failure in persuade EU leaders to open trade talks with Britain at a December summit.
“We need to see progress from UK within 10 days on all issues, including on Ireland,” European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted after meeting May in Brussels for one hour following an EU summit.
A deal on the Northern Ireland border became suddenly trickier on Friday as the Dublin government looked set to fall.
Without a deal next month, time will be very tight to agree arrangements before Britain leaves the EU in March 2019, adding to pressure on businesses to avoid potential losses and move investments.
Tusk said it was still possible the other 27 EU leaders would conclude at a summit on December 14-15 that Britain had made “sufficient progress” toward meeting three key conditions for them to approve the opening of trade talks in the new year.
But, added the former Polish premier who chairs the bloc’s summit meetings, that was “still a huge challenge”.
EU officials expect the crunch to come when May returns on Monday, Dec. 4, to meet the EU chief executive, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and his chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
“Tusk presented the timeline ... with December 4 as the absolute deadline for the UK to make additional efforts, allowing Barnier to be in a position to recommend sufficient progress,” an EU official said. “May agreed to this time frame.”
“The UK will need to give credible assurances as to how to avoid a hard border before December 4, as it is still unclear how this can be done,” the official added.
According to a Reuters report, A further complication lay in Ireland, where Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who has warned of a veto without big British moves on the border issue, may call a snap election next week over a separate issue.