Filmed by Petros Gioumpasis. Produced Josh de la Mare. Edited by Vanessa Kortekaas. Additional footage and images Reuters.
Do you have new proposals, prime minister?
There's less than 50 days till the moment when Brexit is supposed to happen. But it's pretty unclear still when it's going to happen and how. The British prime minister has been on a tour of European capitals to try and amend the Brexit package in a way that could build the majority in Westminster. It's a hard job.
There are three main ways that that could happen in coming weeks. One is a pretty cosmetic change, some embellishments, what they call in Brussels embroidery, to make it seem more palatable for Westminster. But there would have to be a lot of MPs who really want a deal for that to work. The second way is to make a big significant change to the withdrawal agreement. That's the 585-page treaty text that lays out Britain's terms of exit.
The EU27 is not making any new offer.
The EU is extremely reluctant to do that. And the main change is a time limit on the backstop for Northern Ireland that the Irish government is adamant it wants to avoid, because it defeats the whole purpose of a backstop. The pressure to make a change like that will build over coming weeks. But it's far from clear whether it would be enough for the EU to move, or for Ireland to decide that it should take the initiative and offer some concessions itself.
The third way to revise this package is to look at it in a different perspective about the future. That's through what's called the political declaration, a non-binding agreement that talks about what kind of relationship the UK and EU are looking to negotiate after Brexit. The Labour Party put a lot of emphasis on that document. They want to see a permanent customs union and a much closer relationship between the UK and the EU, the kind of thing that the Tory party is determined to avoid.
From the perspective of Brussels, all of this looks pretty hard to do, especially in the few weeks we have left before March 29th. But we may see both sides play up the potential for a no-deal on that date to try and put pressure on MPs to get behind the deal. The possibility of a no-deal exit, a kind of disorderly more chaotic end to this relationship, is being priced in in a much more real way into the way that the EU is behaving at the moment. European politicians are starting to make arguments about how they've been flexible, accommodating, and why the responsibility for really finding a solution to this lies in Westminster, the place that asked for Brexit in the first place. And secondly, planning and preparation for a no-deal exit has really stepped up across Europe.
To conclude, it looks like over the next couple of weeks, talks may go underground. There'll be a lot of frantic work behind the scenes to try and chart a way through that might just have a chance of working in Westminster. The expectation is that whether or not Westminster has a majority to back the deal, there will be an extension request, and that the real end game for Brexit is probably going to be closer to June.