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"But I have to say the period since I made that speech we have had a very different approach from the European Union a more constructive approach that has led to the situation we're in now where all but one or two issues have been resolved".

Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed Thursday she was open to extending a Brexit transition period if it helped unblock negotiations, after European Union leaders repeated that Britain must do more to avoid crashing out of the bloc without a deal.

May traveled to Brussels Wednesday to address the leaders of the remaining 27 European Union member states, and the border issue emerged as the big stumbling block.

If agreed, the change would mean the United Kingdom remaining within the single market and customs union and subject to EU rules and regulations for nearly three years after the official date of Brexit in March 2019 and more than five years after the referendum vote to Leave.

Mr Barnier said that he believed the Brexit vote was fuelled in part by "nostalgia" as well as popular anger over the impact of globalisation, but said he had yet to find anyone who could explain how it would provide any answers to voters' anxieties.

Meanwhile, his Sinn Fein counterpart Michelle O'Neill said Prime Minister Theresa May had refused to hold a joint meeting with the leaders of Northern Ireland's main anti-Brexit parties.

The problem centres on a so-called backstop - an insurance policy to ensure there will be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland, a former focal point for sectarian tensions, if a future trading relationship is not in place in time.

Asked if Mrs May was going to have to drop the support of the DUP in order to push through a Brexit deal, Mr Varadkar said it was "her judgment call".

The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said both sides had worked hard, but "we are not there yet".

It emerged on Wednesday that Mr Barnier was ready to discuss a further year's extension to allow time to find a solution to keep the Irish border open.

The furiously anti-Brexit trio accused pro-leavers of "living in a fantasy land of betrayal", and repeatedly referred to full Brexit, where Britain actually leaves the European Union as promised in the run-up to the referendum, in charged language as a "blindfold Brexit".

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This week's summit has always been billed as "the moment of truth" when agreement was needed to allow time for ratification before Brexit day in March.

"And the European Parliament would not or should not approve a deal that undermines the single market and doesn't give Ireland what we need in relation to the backstop".

Extending the transition period could mean that if a future partnership is not ready, a backstop, which so far has been unpalatable to the British side, would not have to be triggered.

The UK would continue to pay contributions to the bloc while having no say post-Brexit, deputy leader Nigel Dodds warned.

Syed Kamall, the leader of the Conservative's group, is "quite confident that there will be a deal by the end of the year", a spokesperson said on Friday.

British opponents of Brexit say the United Kingdom won't be able to strike a trade deal with the US unless it weakens its current EU-level protections on workers rights, animal welfare and environmental protection.

The proposed extension was also criticised by Tory MPs, including arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg who branded the idea "a rather poor attempt at kicking the can down the road".

The group called on Mrs May to "reset" the negotiations and ditch her Chequers Brexit blueprint in favour of a Canada-style free trade agreement.

With divorce talks stuck, the bloc has suggested extending that period, to give more time to strike a trade deal that ensures a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. They do not know themselves what they want.

"Today, we do not know what they want", she said.