Theresa May will head to Brussels today to meet European Union Chief Jean-Claude Juncker, in a last-minute attempt to finalise a Brexit deal ahead of a key summit of EU leaders on Sunday.
The meeting comes amid pressure on May to heal cracks within her Government following a DUP revolt on Monday, and demands from her ministers that she should not concede further ground.
The Northern Ireland party accused the PM of breaking key Brexit promises and sided with Labour to reduce the government’s majority in a Commons vote on the Budget.
In a bid to send a “political message” to May, the DUP abstained on a number of other amendments to the Finance Bill - a move which looked to threaten their “confidence and supply” agreement in place to prop up May’s minority Conservative government.
The Prime Minister still needs to find ways to appease Brexiteers and make changes to the Northern Irish backstop contained in her contested Withdrawal Agreement, which was agreed in principle with the EU last week.
It comes after a week of cabinet resignations and plotting to try and oust her through attempts to trigger a confidence vote.
May’s talks with Juncker follow confirmation from Number 10 that the Government will look at potential technological solutions to keep the Irish border open.
Brexit-backing ministers want her to press for clarity on how the UK can even do away with the backstop, which would see the nation remain in the customs union for a period after 2020, until an alternative is found.
The backstop would force Northern Ireland to align with Brussels’ single market rules, and keep the Irish border open.
Brussels has indicated that the withdrawal agreement, setting out the terms of the UK’s divorce from the bloc, will not be rewritten – although work is ongoing to flesh out the deal on the future UK-EU relationship.
Last week, senior figures from the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) of Tories were confidently predicting they would get the 48 letters of no confidence from MPs needed to trigger a vote on May’s leadership.
But ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg acknowledged they were struggling to get the support they needed and warned Tory MPs that unless they acted now, May would lead the party into the next general election despite a lack of enthusiasm within the Conservative ranks.