Donald Tusk has warned that no Brexit deal is imminent on the eve of a crunch summit.
The president of the European Council said the only ‘source of hope’ was goodwill during a gloomy Brussels press conference.
He added: ‘Unfortunately the report on the state of the negotiations that I got from Michel Barnier today, as well as yesterday’s debate in the House of Commons, gives me no grounds for optimism before tomorrow’s European Council on Brexit.
‘As I see it, the only source of hope for a deal for now is the goodwill and determination on both sides.
‘However, for a breakthrough to take place, besides goodwill we need new facts.
‘Tomorrow I am going to ask prime minister May whether she has concrete proposals on how to break the impasse. Only such proposals can determine if a breakthrough is possible.
‘While working on a Brexit deal, we also need to make sure that we are prepared in case an agreement is not possible or in case it is rejected. Therefore tomorrow the leaders will discuss how to step up our preparations for a no-deal scenario.
‘But, as I have already stressed, the fact that we are preparing for a no-deal scenario must not under any circumstances lead us away from making every effort to reach the best agreement possible for all sides.’
Meanwhile in London Theresa May desperately tried to keep her minister’s in line during a cabinet meeting amid claims some were willing to quit.
The mammoth three-hour meeting came a day after eight Brexit-supporting ministers took the unusual step of meeting over pizzas in the office of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom to discuss their concerns about the PM’s stance.
But despite intense speculation over a possible walkout, no minister at cabinet indicated they might consider resigning from the Government over Brexit.
MMay issued a plea for unity as she said she remained determined to secure a Brexit that would respect the result of the 2016 referendum, protect jobs and security and preserve the Union.
‘I’m convinced that if we as a government stand together and stand firm, we can achieve this,’ she said.
The PM said the sticking points were:
• That it would not be possible for her or any other UK prime minister to sign up to an agreement which created a customs border down the Irish Sea.
• That any agreement must ensure that the UK is not kept indefinitely in a backstop arrangement against its will.