Officials warn they don’t yet know if a deal can be made with the EU

UK Officials close to the Brexit talks with the EU on Northern Ireland have cautioned that they still do not know “if” let alone “when” a deal might be agreed. The intervention has come to dampen speculation that the Prime Minister is set to unveil proposals and a legal text some time this week.

After Mr Sunak made a surprise visit to Northern Ireland on Friday to talk to the political parties there about a possible deal there has been fevered speculation that an agreement is set to be unveiled within days.

But a senior official has told Express.co.uk that while the talks are “in the zone of possibilities” it is far from certain that an agreement can even be reached with Brussels after months of talks with Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic most recently involving Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

The source said: “Progress has clearly been made because things are getting a leader [Mr Sunak] involvement but annoying though it is the truth: if this is done, it will be DONE when it’s done. We aren’t setting artificial timetables, we aren’t bound by the latest scoop on scheduling from newspapers whose stories are based on people who claim to be closely involved but aren’t. And we won’t delay if we don’t have to.

“I totally get how frustrating that is but a lot of journalists (not the Express) are having to now justify and explain how 1/ their big scoops got so much wrong 2/ why it’s not their fault but entirely the Governments..

The source added: “Truth is I don’t know when or if. But we are in the zone of possibilities.”

The final agreement will be crucial for Mr. Sunak’s potential survival as Prime Minister with Boris Johnson making it clear over the weekend that he would support a rebellion which sees the Government compromise to Brussels.

Sources have previously told Express.co.uk that Mr Cleverly has largely been sidelined by a small team in Downing Street as Mr Sunak tries to “take ownership” of the crucial talks and final decision.

After the meeting with the Prime Minister on Friday, the DUP made it clear that they will not agree to anything that will cross their red lines or undermine Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.

Meanwhile, up to 100 Tory MPs largely from the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiteers are set to rebel unless Mr Sunak restores Northern Ireland’s sovereignty.

This morning ERG deputy chairman David Jones told Express.co.uk: “The problem is that we still haven’t seen any details yet or any formal written text. What worries me is that they will try to get a vote without [a written text] he something like a Command Paper which only provides a narrative.

“In the end though they will have to show that there will no longer be any dynamic alignment of law between Northern Ireland and the EU. That has to end or else there is a good chance it will be opposed.”

READ MORE: Boris slammed for hypocrisy as Sunak challenged to stand up to the EU

Dudley North Conservative MP Marco Longhi also indicated there would be strong opposition from the Red Wall 2019 intake.

He said: “As a strong Brexiteer, I’m glad that leading politicians like Boris and Penny Mourdant have emphasized how important it is that we maintain a strong position with the EU.

“We have seen ample examples of it being one way traffic with the EU, their way or no way, so we should use and maintain every negotiating card that a sovereign nation should have.”

Briefing EU 27 ambassadors in Brussels on Friday, Mr Sefcovic also cautioned against a deal being made soon but said that if it was it would be “within the existing protocol”.

This led former Labor Europe minister Baroness Hoey, a Brexiteer close to the DUP, to warn that it would “destroy the Good Friday Agreement” which is the basis of peace in Northern Ireland.

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