Theresa May is “continuing to work” on providing further assurances to MPs on her Brexit deal – with little over a week until a crunch House of Commons vote.
The prime minister is seeking “further undertakings” from the EU as she bids to win over MPs sceptical of her agreement with Brussels.
However, the EU reiterated its position on Monday that there would be “no negotiation” on the terms of Mrs May’s deal, despite the prime minister being due to speak to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker this week.
Downing Street revealed the prime minister had spoken to her Spanish, French, German and Irish counterparts over the Christmas break, as well as Mr Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk.
Having dramatically pulled a vote on her Brexit deal before Christmas, due to the prospect of a significant defeat, the Commons is nearing its so-called meaningful vote on the agreement.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay gave a guarantee to MPs the vote would be held next week, while a government source revealed the parliamentary showdown will come on 15 January.
As well as her discussions with European leaders, Mrs May also focused on winning over domestic critics as she began a new charm offensive on Monday by hosting Tory MPs for drinks in Downing Street.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned Mrs May “there can be no more hiding and no more running away” with less than three months until the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU.
Speaking in Liverpool on Monday, the prime minister claimed there had been “some further movement” from the EU at last month’s European Council summit.
She said: “In the coming days, what we will set out is not just about the EU but also about what we can do domestically.
“So we will be setting out measures which will be specific to Northern Ireland, we will be setting out proposals for a greater role for parliament as we move into the next stage of the negotiation and we are continuing to work on further assurances on further undertakings from the EU in relation to the concern that has been expressed by parliamentarians.”
She spoke minutes after European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas emphasised “there is no negotiation because everything on the table has been established as approved, established, achieved”.
He added: “The priority now is to await events, monitor what is happening (with) the ratification procedure on the UK side and no, there will not be any meeting between the commission and our negotiator teams.”
Theresa May’s trip to Liverpool saw her unable to answer an urgent question in the House of Commons from Jeremy Corbyn on what progress she had made in achieving legal changes to her Brexit deal.
In the prime minister’s absence, the Labour leader told MPs: “The prime minister should be here updating MPs on what progress she has achieved, if any.
“Instead, she is continuing her approach, as before Christmas, of ducking scrutiny and dodging accountability.”
In response, Mr Barclay said the government would “make clear” to MPs “what has been achieved since the vote was deferred last year” when the debate on Mrs May’s agreement begins on Wednesday.
Mr Corbyn also accused Mrs May of “promoting ‘Project Fear'” as he attacked “shambolic preparations” for a no-deal Brexit as “too little, too late”.
He spoke after the government tested contingency plans on Monday for possible traffic congestion at Dover port in the event the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement.
On Monday evening, Mrs May hosted MPs in Number 10, including former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, as she continues efforts to win over those opposed to her deal.
However, her fiercest critics showed no sign of changing their minds.
Asked if he could be persuaded to back the prime minister’s agreement, North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen said: “I wouldn’t have thought so, no.”
On his way into Number 10, he added: “I’m not sure that is the point of the drinks reception because Einstein said repeating an experiment expecting a different result is a sign of insanity.
“I think it’s about party cohesion, it’s going to be difficult times over the next few weeks and we need to come back together again after the vote.”
Digital minister Margot James suggested Article 50 could be extended if Mrs May’s Brexit deal is defeated next week.
But Downing Street pushed back against the minister’s comments, with Mrs May’s official spokesman saying: “The prime minister has been very clear on a number of occasions that that is not something we are intending to do.”