Mrs May has made a dash to Brussels to try and thrash out the sticking points with the EU commission president amid bitter wrangling over issues including fishing, trade terms, and the status of Gibraltar.
As both sides push the process to the brink, there are claims Angela Merkel is threatening to pull the plug on the gathering scheduled for Sunday unless the outstanding issues are solved by tomorrow.
Mr Juncker’s deputy Valdis Dombrovskis warned that the summit would not definitely go ahead. ‘For that we will need to have agreed beforehand on the political declaration on the future relationship and we are not there yet,’ he said.
Asked if Mrs May was still going, her spokesman said: ‘A summit has been called, an agenda has been published and we look forward to attending.’
Theresa May has dashed to Brussels for talks with Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured are the pair together at the start of their meeting)
Mrs May has managed to quell a Cabinet mutiny over the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement – albeit at the cost of two big resignations. A backbench coup attempt led by Jacob Rees-Mogg has also embarrassingly flopped.
But she has been warned by ministers that she must get concessions alongside the text to avoid a catastrophic defeat in Parliament.
One Brexiteer Cabinet minister suggested that rather than re-drafting the deal, appendices or explanatory notes could be added to make it more palatable.
‘There are lots of ways of changing something without changing something,’ they said. ‘You can do a lot with addenda.’
However, Spain has threatened to torpedo the agreement unless Gibraltar is dealt with separately – while other countries are also pushing hard on elements of the future trade package.
The outstanding elements include access to UK waters for European fishing vessels – while Germany is adamant that the trade terms cannot allow Britain to cherry pick the best parts of EU membership.
Theresa May faced pressure from Conservative MPs and Labour as she took PMQs in the Commons today
Theresa May (pictured left this week) will plead with the EU to sweeten her Brexit deal later as she holds talks with Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured right in Brussels today)
As Westminster is plunged into turmoil over Brexit and the future of Theresa May as PM, a no deal Brexit and a second EU referendum are both looking more likely
The assault from the EU came as domestic pressure on Mrs May reached new heights.
With the number of Tory MPs pledging to vote against the package continuing to rise alarmingly, chief whip Julian Smith has privately told the PM she is set to lose unless there are significant tweaks.
The scale of the threat facing Mrs May was underlined last night when the DUP again abstained on Budget legislation – humiliatingly forcing the government to accept Opposition amendments.
Mrs May is pushing for a draft ‘political statement’ on the UK’s future relationship with Europe to be fleshed out this week to make it clear that Britain will get a good deal in return for the £39billion divorce payment.
Some allies of the Prime Minister believe that the fear of no deal will ultimately persuade MPs to reluctantly back her Brexit proposals when Parliament holds a ‘meaningful vote’ next month.
But Mr Smith is said to be concerned that opposition to the deal is hardening.
Has ‘Max Fac’ been put back on the table?
Downing Street has hinted that a technological solution could yet solve the Irish border problem
The PM appeared to buy off some senior Brexiteers, including Iain Duncan Smith Smith and Owen Paterson, earlier this week by offering to look at their proposals on the Northern Ireland border.
They have been urging the government to push technological solutions to avoiding a hard border, and Mrs May has seemingly promised to raise their latest ideas with Brussels.
However, the EU has previously dismissed the so-called ‘Max Fac’ solution as ‘magical thinking’.
There is no sign either Mrs May or the commission is considering abandoning the ‘backstop’ proposal.
The PM’s official spokesman said of technological solutions to the border ‘there are things that have been looked at’.
He pointed to the withdrawal agreement draft which says ‘alternative arrangements’ could be used to bring the backstop plan to an end.
The spokesman said: ‘The aim of all parties is to ensure there is no hard border.’
Some 56 Eurosceptic MPs have now signed up to the ‘Stand up for Brexit’ campaign which commits them to voting down any deal based on Mrs May’s Chequers proposals.
Worryingly for Mrs May, high-profile Tory Remainers are also promising them to vote against, with the latest names including Culture Committee chair Damian Collins.
New Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd insisted today that she still expects Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement to make it through Parliament – warning that if MPs vote it down Brexit may not happen.
Asked whether it is not clear that the deal will not get through the Commons, Ms Rudd told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I don’t accept that at all.’
She called on MPs considering voting against the deal to take a fresh look at it after Mrs May returns from Brussels and to draw back from the ‘abyss’ of a no-deal departure.
‘If it doesn’t get through, anything could happen,’ said Ms Rudd, who was promoted to the Cabinet last week following the resignation of Leave supporter Esther McVey.
‘The Brexiteers may lose their Brexit.
‘It is my view that the House of Commons will stop no-deal. There isn’t a majority in the House of Commons to allow that to take place.’
But she added: ‘I don’t think we are looking at another referendum. I think people will take a careful look over the abyss – MPs of all parties – and consider whether they think it is in the best interests of the whole country.
‘I think the likelihood is, despite what people say, that the Withdrawal Agreement will get through.’
EU diplomats are expecting the final deal will be published tonight, after ‘fine tuning’ talks between Mrs May and Mr Juncker.
The deal is due to be signed off by EU leaders at a crunch Brussels summit on Sunday.
The source said the document was expected to run to about 20 pages. ‘Juncker and May will sort it out,’ the insider added.
France demanding access to fish in Britain’s waters even after Brexit and want the UK to agree to sign up to the bloc’s tough environmental standards – including changes made in the future after Brexit.
While Spain has threatened to bock the Brexit divorce deal in a row about Gibraltar – a British overseas territory which the Spanish try to lay claim to.
Chief whip Julian Smith is said to be concerned that opposition to the Brexit deal is hardening
The PM tried to calm Brexiteer jitters by reviving plans for a technological solution to the Irish border problem during an extended Cabinet discussion.
The so-called ‘Max Fac’ plan was dumped at Chequers in July, but Downing Street said the deal with Brussels could allow for future technology to remove the need for border checks.
The suggestion was said to have been welcomed ‘positively’ by some senior Eurosceptics.
However, others pointed out that the Irish border ‘backstop’ would still be in the divorce deal – meaning that is the default position.
Bank of England governor Mark Carney threw his weight behind the PM’s Brexit deal and warned of disruption if the agreement collapses.
France demanded further concessions on fishing, saying the EU had to make it clear that Brexit would have ‘consequences’ for the UK.
What happens if the EU signs off on the Brexit deal – and what happens if they don’t
Theresa May (pictured at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet on Monday) has struck a Brexit deal with Brussels – but now has to sell it to her Cabinet and then Parliament
Emergency EU Summit, Brussels, November 25
What will happen? The EU has scheduled a summit to sign off the Brexit deal covering the withdrawal and future trade – although there are fears that last minute wrangling over issues such as fishing rights and Gibraltar could derail the event altogether.
If it is cancelled the negotiating teams will keep working until they are in position to put an overall agreement to leaders – or they conclude the situation is hopeless.
The next routine EU summit is due to happen on December 13-14.
However, by that point time will be on the verge of running out – as both sides need to ratify the deal before March.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) is still a crucial figure in the Brexit drama
The so-called ‘meaningful vote’ in the UK Parliament, December 2019
What will happen: Assuming a deal is reached, a debate, probably over more than one day, will be held in the House of Commons on terms of the deal.
It will end with a vote on whether or not MPs accept the deal. More than one vote might happen if MPs are allowed to table amendments.
The vote is only happening after MPs forced the Government to accept a ‘meaningful vote’ in Parliament on the terms of the deal.
What happens if May wins? If the meaningful vote is passed, there will be a series of further votes as the withdrawal treaty is written into British law.
It will be a huge political victory for the Prime Minister and probably secure her version of Brexit.
What happens if she loses? This is possibly the most dangerous stage of all.
The Prime Minister will have to stake her political credibility on winning a vote and losing it would be politically devastating.
Brexiteers do not want to sign off the divorce bill without a satisfactory trade deal and Remainers are reluctant to vote for a blind Brexit.
She could go back to Brussels to ask for new concessions before a second vote but many think she would have to resign quickly.
The Prime Minister (pictured at the EU Council in June) has made clear the UK will leave without a deal if MPs reject her package
Ratification in the EU, February 2019
What will happen? After the meaningful vote in the UK, the EU will have to ratify the agreement.
The European Parliament must also vote in favour of the deal. It has a representative in the talks, Guy Verhofstadt, who has repeatedly warned the deal must serve the EU’s interests.
Will it be agreed? In practice, once the leaders of the 27 member states have agreed a deal, ratification on the EU side should be assured.
If the deal has passed the Commons and she is still in office, this should not be dangerous for the Prime Minister.
Exit day, March 29, 2019
At 11pm on March 29, 2019, Britain will cease to be a member of the European Union, two years after triggering Article 50 and almost three years after the referendum.
Exit happens at 11pm because it must happen on EU time.
If the transition deal is in place, little will change immediately – people will travel in the same way as today and goods will cross the border normally.
But Britain’s MEPs will no longer sit in the European Parliament and British ministers will no longer take part in EU meetings.
Negotiations will continue to turn the political agreement on the future partnership into legal text that will eventually become a second treaty. Both sides will build new customs and immigration controls in line with what this says.
Transition ends, December 2020
The UK’s position will undergo a more dramatic change at the end of December 2020, when the ‘standstill’ transition is due to finish.
If the negotiations on a future trade deal are complete, that could come into force.
But if they are still not complete the Irish border ‘backstop’ plan could be triggered.
Under current thinking, that means the UK staying in the EU customs union and more regulatory checks between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.
Eurosceptics fear this arrangement will prevent the country striking trade deals elsewhere, and could effectively last for ever, as Brussels will have no incentive to negotiate a replacement deal.
How WILL Theresa May get the votes to pass her Brexit Deal through Parliament? The PM could need the support of more than FIFTY hardcore Brexiteers from her own party plus Labour rebels
Theresa May has secured her deal in Brussels but her fight to get it actually in place in time for Brexit day is just beginning.
If the Cabinet agrees to the deal the biggest hurdle will be the ‘meaningful vote’ on the plans in Parliament.
This is expected to take place in December to ensure the deal is over its biggest hurdle before the end of the year.
The Prime Minister needs at least 318 votes in the Commons if all 650 MPs turns up – but can probably only be confident of around 230 votes.
The number is less than half because the four Speakers, 7 Sinn Fein MPs and four tellers will not take part.
To win, Mrs May will need to get back around half of the 80 hardcore Tory Brexiteer rebels and secure the support of the 10 DUP MPs.
Even then she will probably still need the help of dozens of Labour MPs to save her deal and possibly her job.
Theresa May will need 318 votes in the Commons if every single MP turns up. She can only rely on about 230 votes – meaning she will need to get back around half of the 80 hardcore Tory Brexiteer rebels and secure the support of the 10 DUP MPs, plus dozens of Labour MPs
This is how the House of Commons might break down:
Who are they: All members of the Government are the so-called ‘payroll’ vote and are obliged to follow the whips orders or resign. It includes the Cabinet, all junior ministers, the whips and unpaid parliamentary aides.
How many of them are there? About 150.
What do they want? For the Prime Minister to survive, get her deal and reach exit day with the minimum of fuss.
Many junior ministers want promotion while many of the Cabinet want to be in a position to take the top job when Mrs May goes.
How will they vote? With the Prime Minister.
Brexiteers in the European Research Group (ERG)
Who are they? Led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the ERG counts Boris Johnson, David Davis and other former ministers including Steve Baker and Iain Duncan Smith.
How many of them are there? Estimates vary on how many members it has. It secured 62 signatures on a letter to the PM in February while Mr Baker has claimed the group has a bloc of 80 Tory MPs willing to vote against May’s plans.
The group’s deputy leader Mark Francois said today there were at least 40 hard liners who would vote against the deal in all circumstances.
What do they want? The ERG has said Mrs May should abandon her plans for a unique trade deal and instead negotiate a ‘Canada plus plus plus’ deal.
This is based on a trade deal signed between the EU and Canada in August 2014 that eliminated 98 per cent of tariffs and taxes charged on goods shipped across the Atlantic.
The EU has long said it would be happy to do a deal based on Canada – but warn it would only work for Great Britain and not Northern Ireland.
The ERG say the model can be adapted to work for the whole UK. They say Northern Ireland can be included by using technology on the Irish border to track goods and make sure products which don’t meet EU rules do not enter the single market.
They also say it would give complete freedom for Britain to sign new trade deals around the world to replace any losses in trade with the EU.
The group is content to leave the EU without a deal if Brussels will not give in.
How will they vote: Against the Prime Minister.
Moderates in the Brexit Delivery Group (BDG) and other Loyalists
Who are they? A newer group, the BDG counts members from across the Brexit divide inside the Tory Party. It includes former minister Nick Boles and MPs including Remainer Simon Hart and Brexiteer Andrew Percy.
There are also many unaligned Tory MPs who are desperate to talk about anything else.
How many of them are there? There are thought to be around 50 members in the BDG, with a few dozen other MPs loyal to the Prime Minister
What do they want? The BDG prioritises delivering on Brexit and getting to exit day on March 29, 2019, without destroying the Tory Party or the Government. If the PM gets a deal the group will probably vote for it.
It is less interested in the exact form of the deal but many in it have said Mrs May’s Chequers plan will not work.
Mr Boles has set out a proposal for Britain to stay in the European Economic Area (EEA) until a free trade deal be negotiated – effectively to leave the EU but stay in close orbit as a member of the single market.
How will they vote? With the Prime Minister.
Unrepentant Remainers in the People’s Vote
Who are they? A handful of about five Tory MPs – mostly former ministers – who never supported Brexit and think the failure of politicians to get a deal means Parliament should hand it back to the people. The group includes Anna Soubry, Dominic Grieve and Justine Greening.
What do they want instead? A so-called People’s Vote. The exact timing still needs to be sorted out but broadly, the group wants the Article 50 process postponed and a second referendum scheduled.
This would take about six months from start to finish and they group wants Remain as an option on the ballot paper, probably with Mrs May’s deal as the alternative.
There are established pro-Remain campaigns born out of the losing Britain Stronger in Europe campaign from 2016. It is supported by Tony Blair, the Liberal Democrats and assorted pro-EU politicians outside the Tory party.
How will they vote? Hard to say for sure. Probably with the Prime Minister if the only other option was no deal.
Who are they? The Northern Ireland Party signed up to a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the Conservative Party to prop up the Government.
They are Unionist and say Brexit is good but must not carve Northern Ireland out of the Union.
How many of them are there? 10.
What do they want? A Brexit deal that protects Northern Ireland inside the UK.
How will they vote? Against the Prime Minister if the deal breaches the red line, with the Prime Minister if she can persuade them it does not. The group currently says No.
Who are they? Labour MPs who are loyal to Jeremy Corbyn and willing to follow his whipping orders.
How many of them are there? Between 210 and 240 MPs depending on exactly what Mr Corbyn orders them to do.
What do they want? Labour policy is to demand a general election and if the Government refuses, ‘all options are on the table’, including a second referendum.
Labour insists it wants a ‘jobs first Brexit’ that includes a permanent customs union with the EU. It says it is ready to restart negotiations with the EU with a short extension to the Article 50 process.
The party has six tests Mrs May’s deal must pass to get Labour votes.
How will they vote? Against the Prime Minister’s current deal.
Who are they? A mix of MPs totally opposed to Mr Corbyn’s leadership, some Labour Leave supporters who want a deal and some MPs who think any deal will do at this point.
How many of them are there? Up to 45 but possibly no more than 20 MPs.
What do they want? An orderly Brexit and to spite Mr Corbyn.
How will they vote? With the Prime Minister.
Other Opposition parties
Who are they? The SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Green Caroline Lucas and assorted independents.
How many of them are there? About 60 MPs.
How will they vote? Mostly against the Prime Minister – though two of the independents are suspended Tories and two are Brexiteer former Labour MPs.