A Brexit breakthrough is being talked up by Brussels as Theresa May’s supporters insist any move to topple the Prime Minister by Tory MPs would end in “collapse and disarray”.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker sounded an upbeat note as he signalled a deal could be hammered out in time for a crunch EU summit in less than two weeks’ time.
I have reason to think that the rapprochement potential between both sides has increased in recent daysJean-Claude Juncker
As negotiations reached a frantic final phase, Irish government sources suggested an agreement on the crucial border issue was “very close”.
Mr Juncker struck an unusually positive note when asked if a deal could be made, telling Austrian media: “I have reason to think that the rapprochement potential between both sides has increased in recent days.”
The remarks raised hopes of a deal at an EU summit on October 17, or at another gathering slated for November.
The comments came as Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan insisted Tory MPs seeking to oust the Prime Minister represented a fringe element.
Warning against a move to replace the PM, Sir Alan told the BBC: “Don’t believe all those things you read in the newspapers and take it that there are a lot of numbers behind the noise.
“And that’s where you need to apply a lot of political judgment to work out whether the complainers are just a fringe, or whether they represent the main body of opinion in the middle.
“The main body of opinion in the middle and right to the edges is absolutely solidly behind her.
“Because the idea that we can go for anybody else at the moment is just folly.
“It would lead to collapse and disarray.
“It’s not a credible option.”
As talks intensified, Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney accused leading arch-Brexiteers of peddling “crazy” ideas about the impact of a no-deal withdrawal.
Mr Coveney’s rebuke came as Dublin urged Mrs May to bring forward her proposals to break the deadlock in the Brexit talks over the Northern Ireland border.
When it was put to him that Brexiteers believe the Republic would not erect a border in a no-deal scenario, Mr Coveney told Channel 4 News: “That is a crazy argument.”
Meanwhile, prominent pro-Europe Labour MP Chris Bryant insisted he had not been involved in talks with the Government on backing a deal after reports Downing Street had launched a “charm offensive” to try and win opposition support for Mrs May’s stance.