Downing Street source brands attempts to back Brexit delay 'hostile interference'

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media captionUK Brexit proposals

"Parliament's success in passing the Benn Act last month (requiring the PM to request from the European Union an Article 50 extension by 19 October, assuming the European Union and parliament have not agreed to a deal by then) means a Brexit extension looks highly likely (80%)".

The Prime Minister's official spokesman acknowledged there had been a "frank exchange" with Mrs Merkel and that the talks had reached a "critical point", but refused to be drawn any further on the "source" claims.

Whether or not this is what she said, it provoked fury from the European Council president Donald Tusk who accused Boris Johnson of playing "a stupid blame game" when so much was at stake.

"At stake is the future of Europe and the United Kingdom as well as the security and interests of our people", he tweeted.

"You don't want a deal, you don't want an extension, you don't want to revoke, quo vadis?"

The leaders discussed the need to approve any revised Withdrawal Agreement in both parliaments.

Arlene Foster, leader of Northern Ireland's Democratic Union Party (DUP), said in a statement that "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".

"The EU position has not changed: we want a deal".

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However there was said to be surprise among diplomats in Brussels at Mrs Merkel's reported comments, as she has consistently stressed her commitment to achieving a deal.

"Technical talks are continuing today so I don't see how talks could have actually broken down if they are happening today and in the days to continue", she said.

Talks between Frost and junior European Union officials were to begin later Tuesday, then chief European Union negotiator Michel Barnier was to meet Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney in the evening.

The opposition said Johnson was trying to apportion blame for the failure of the negotiating process.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the comments were a "cynical" attempt by No 10 to "sabotage" the negotiations.

According to The Spectator, the source also made it clear that defence and security cooperation could be affected if the European Union attempted to keep Britain in against its wishes. He has reiterated this position despite MPs passing legislation that forces him to demand a third Brexit delay if a deal is not struck before October 19. He has also insisted that the United Kingdom will leave on 31 October with or without a deal.

One source in Johnson's office told The Spectator magazine the government will try to "do all sorts of things" to prevent another Brexit delay should negotiations really collapse.

"This government will not negotiate further so any delay would be totally pointless", the source was quoted as saying. "We'll either leave with no deal on 31 October or there will be an election and then we will leave with no deal".

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