The European Union (EU) has issued an ultimatum for the UK to come up with some fresh proposals by Friday to break the deadlock over ongoing negotiations to strike a deal in time for the March 29 Brexit deadline.
While the European Commission's spokesperson said that "no solution" was in sight as British ministers left Brussels after talks on Wednesday, the UK has claimed that "reasonable" proposals to satisfy British MPs' concerns about being tied to EU rules post-Brexit had been made.
These are very sensitive discussions, we are in the meat of the matter now. We've put forward some proposals, very reasonable proposals, are we are now really into the detail of the discussion, said UK Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox.
"Both sides have exchanged robust strong views, said Cox, who, along with Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, are in charge of finalising a renewed Brexit deal that would stand a better chance of being voted through by the UK Parliament in a crucial vote next Tuesday.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking legally-enforceable changes to the controversial backstop clause in the withdrawal agreement an insurance policy designed to prevent physical checks on the border between UK territory Northern Ireland and EU member-country Ireland.
MPs, who had decisively rejected the agreement earlier this year, are due to vote for a second time on the deal in a so-called meaningful vote next week. If they reject the deal once again, they will get to choose between leaving the EU without a deal, a prospect not supported by a majority of MPs, or deferring the UK's exit from the economic bloc beyond the scheduled date of March 29.
The House of Commons remains deeply divided on all of the options available at this late stage in the negotiations.
"If the Prime Minister's deal does not get approved on Tuesday then it is likely that the House of Commons will vote to extend the Article 50 procedure, to not leave the European Union without a deal, and where we go thereafter is highly uncertain," said UK Chancellor Philip Hammond.
Meanwhile, Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn met senior Conservative Party back-benchers proposing the UK enter a Norway-plus relationship with the EU, which would keep the UK in the single market and Customs Union, maintaining free movement of people.
This soft Brexit option has few takers across the political spectrum, with many favouring a much harder Brexit and others calling for a second referendum to put the issue back to the public.
At this stage in the process, the practical deadline for securing changes to the withdrawal agreement is being pegged as Sunday night. If there is a breakthrough, May is likely to travel to Brussels over the weekend to sign off changes with European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.
Once it is wrapped up in Brussels, the government is scheduled to table a Commons motion by Monday afternoon calling for the deal to be voted on Tuesday.
We are absolutely working to secure changes to the backstop to ensure we can't be trapped in it indefinitely, there's more still to do but that work is ongoing, a Downing Street spokesperson said.
The second point is we have given the commitment we will hold the meaningful vote by the 12th [of March] and we stand by that, the spokesperson said.
If the government fails to secure adequate changes to May's withdrawal agreement and bring rebels from within her own Tory Party on board, the vote is likely to prove another major loss in Parliament for the British PM on Tuesday.
According to her assurances in the last round of Commons votes, there will then be further votes on Wednesday on whether to leave the EU without a deal or not, and then again on Thursday, on whether to extend the Article 50 negotiating period and delaying Brexit.
The biggest barrier to a deal remains the controversial Irish backstop, which will come into force if no new trading arrangement is struck between the UK and EU by the end of 2020. Brexiteers fear it would see Britain potentially locked against its will into a Customs Union with the economic bloc.