The UK and EU say key issues remain unresolved following unscheduled Brexit talks in Brussels.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier met for more than an hour ahead of a crunch EU leaders’ summit this week.
Mr Barnier tweeted that issues, such as how to avoid a hard border with Ireland, were “still open”.
A UK government spokesman said UK and EU negotiators “have made real progress in a number of key areas”.
“However there remain a number of unresolved issues relating to the backstop,” he added.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said talks had “made progress” in the last few days – and dismissed reports of a row between Mr Raab and Mr Barnier – but added it was “clear the two sides are stuck” on how the Irish backstop might work.
No further talks are planned before Mr Barnier and Theresa May’s summit on Wednesday, she added.
The meeting comes as domestic political pressure on Mrs May increases amid threats of potential cabinet resignations.
In a letter to the prime minister, Scottish Secretary David Mundell and Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson said they would not accept Northern Ireland being treated differently than the rest of the UK in any Brexit deal.
It follows reports that other top ministers have been considering their positions over the weekend ahead of a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday at which ministers could be asked to give their consent to any agreement.
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The Raab-Barnier meeting came amid conflicting signals as to whether the two sides were nearing a deal on the terms of the UK’s exit next March.
Diplomats from the remaining 27 EU member states were summoned for an update on the process at 17.30 BST, prompting feverish speculation that a deal had been done.
Adam Fleming on what’s next for the talks?
- The EU’s aim is to have the entire Withdrawal Agreement agreed in principle in time for Wednesday’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels.
- If the EU’s 27 – as they are known – agree on it, then work will begin on drafting the political declaration on the future relationship.
- EU leaders are likely to call another summit in mid-November, at which the withdrawal deal and the framework of future co-operation could be finally approved.
- The deal would then have to be approved by the UK and EU Parliaments.
The BBC’s Brussels reporter Adam Fleming said that while Mr Raab’s visit had an air of drama, it was standard practice in the talks for civil servants to hand over to politicians at key points like this.
Rather than a “victory lap” by Mr Raab, he said the UK’s statement that “face-to-face talks were necessary to resolve several big issues” should be taken at face value, and Northern Ireland remained a “sticking point”.
The issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which will become the UK’s border with the EU, is one of the last remaining obstacles to achieving a divorce deal with Brussels.
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Wrangling is continuing over the nature of a “backstop” to keep the border open if a wider UK-EU trade arrangement cannot resolve it.
The EU’s version, which would see just Northern Ireland remain aligned with Brussels’ rules, has been called unacceptable by Mrs May and her Democratic Unionist allies.