Fresh Brexit talks have been scheduled for early next week as Theresa May heads towards another Commons showdown on her EU withdrawal stance.
The move comes amid reports the Prime Minister is facing a major challenge from Tory MPs opposed to a no-deal exit from the EU.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox announced they will hold talks again with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in the coming days on the Northern Ireland backstop.
Ahead of crunch Commons votes expected next Wednesday, Mrs May will travel to an EU-Arab summit in Egypt this Sunday.
While Government sources have been keen to dampen talk of a “deal in the desert”, the PM is expected to have meetings with EU leaders on the sidelines of the gathering.
As the clock ticks down to the UK’s scheduled exit from the EU on March 29, the PM faces a rebellion by up to 100 Tory MPs who want her to delay Brexit if she cannot cut a deal, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The newspaper reports that the Brexit Delivery Group, which represents both Remain and Leave MPs, is calling for a free vote in the Commons next week on a backbench move to take no deal off the table.
A letter sent on behalf of the group to chief whip Julian Smith states that many MPs are “deeply troubled” at the prospect of a no deal, the Daily Telegraph says.
The newspaper quotes the letter as stating that “numerous” members of the group intend to back amendments taking the no-deal option off the table and delaying Brexit if a rejection of the Government’s deal looks likely.
Up to 25 members of the Government are prepared to rebel and vote for a Brexit delay unless Mrs May rules out a no-deal scenario, according to the Guardian.
After talks in Brussels on Thursday, Mr Barclay said both sides had agreed discussions should continue “urgently at a technical level”.
The PM believes that securing legally binding guarantees on the backstop is key to getting her Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons.
The backstop arrangements would see the whole of the UK remain in a customs union with the EU and Northern Ireland following some single market rules until a wider trade deal is agreed, in order to prevent the need for checkpoints on the Irish border.