Clock is ticking for Theresa May’s Brexit plans

After a tumultuous start to the week, Theresa May now faces a race against time to make progress in Brexit talks.

The Prime Minister had hoped to get an agreement on the terms of Britain’s EU withdrawal on Monday, but the Democratic Unionist Party would not allow proposals that would have moved Northern Ireland’s customs border to the Irish Sea.

DUP leader Arlene Foster

Video: Foster: NI must leave EU on same terms as UK

European Council President Donald Tusk said that, until the DUP declared its opposition to the deal, he had been preparing to issue new negotiating guidelines for the next phase of talks.

Mrs May is expected to speak with DUP leader Arlene Foster by phone on Tuesday in a desperate move to find favour with the party, relied on by her minority government at Westminster.

She will travel back to Brussels later this week for more talks with EU officials after failing to secure a deal.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker give a press conference as they meet for Brexit negotiations on December 4, 2017 at the European Commission in Brussels

Image: The Prime Minister and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker

On Monday Mrs May said she had a “constructive meeting” with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and that “a lot of progress has been made”.

But she added: “On a couple of issues some differences do remain which require further negotiation and consultation and those will continue.

“We will reconvene before the end of the week and I am also confident that we will conclude this positively.”

On 14-15 December, Mrs May will try to persuade the 27 remaining EU leaders that “sufficient progress” has been made on divorce issues – including the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland – to move on to talk of trade.

Leo Varadkar says Ireland does not want a hard border

Video: No Brexit deal as Theresa May accused of Northern Ireland border backtrack

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said there was “still time” to reach an agreement before the EU Council summit on 14 December.

More from Arlene Foster

If not, Mrs May risks a crisis, with many companies believed to be preparing their own contingency plans – moving staff and work out of the UK – if there is no progress by Christmas.

EU officials want a text of the deal by the end of this week so it can be included in summit conclusions and so European leaders can consult their own governments.