Only two options left for Brexit, an extension or no — EU's Sassoli

Sources German chancellor Angela Merkel is said to have made clear that an agreement was now ‘overwhelmingly unlikely

In Berlin, Merkel's office confirmed the chancellor spoke by telephone to Johnson but said it would not comment "on such confidential discussions".

The British government is due to publish a plan for a potential no-deal Brexit later on Tuesday. Downing Street sources claimed that Merkel's response was a "clarifying moment" which suggested that a deal was "essentially impossible, not just now but ever". He added that the Chancellor and the German government are "good friends" of Britain.

Neither the German chancellery, nor the European Commission would confirm the contents of the call.

"For the United Kingdom to be asked to leave a part of its sovereign territory in a foreign organisation of which the UK would no longer be a part and over which we would have no say whatsoever is beyond insane", she said.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he found it "hard to disagree" with Tusk, stressing that Dublin would "not strike a deal at any cost". "We are working with an attitude to reach an agreement", a spokesman for the EC said. Downing Street said a Brexit deal was "essentially impossible" and Irish leader Leo Varadkar said a deal before 31 October would be "very hard". "They hope to meet in person later this week".

European Union leaders have demanded more "realism" from Britain in response to a Brexit plan proposed by Johnson.

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement effectively created an invisible border between north and south, satisfying republicans who want a united Ireland and unionists who want to keep the status quo.

Keeping the border open and free-flowing has become a key sticking point in the Brexit talks.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank meanwhile warned that "even a relatively benign no-deal Brexit" would see Britain's debt burden surge to 50-year highs.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who spoke with Mr Johnson by phone for about 45 minutes on Tuesday, said he would strive until the "last moment" to reach a deal with the United Kingdom, but "not at any cost" to his country, Northern Ireland and the rest of Europe.

Britain's Parliament, where a majority of lawmakers have tried to prevent a no-deal Brexit, has demanded an update on the government's efforts to try to mitigate the disruption that leaving without a deal is expected to cause.

"Boris Johnson will never take responsibility for his own failure to put forward a credible deal".

Sterling jumped more than 0.5% against the USA dollar on Wednesday after the Times newspaper said the European Union was ready to agree to a major concession in Brexit negotiations.

The government's "no-deal readiness report" shows significant British preparation but also acknowledges its limits. Tusk called on Britain to say what it wants to do with Brexit, DPA reported.

Just like we were back then, we're not any closer to striking a deal now as the clock continues to run down ahead of the European Council meeting at the end of next week as well as the 31 October Brexit deadline.

Negotiations between London and Brussels are on the verge of collapse, and Eurosceptics in Britain lay the blame with the European Union for not budging on the issue of an Irish backstop.

Parliament is set to be suspended Tuesday evening so that a new session can begin next week with a major policy speech from Johnson's Conservative government.

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