If Theresa May's Brexit deal is voted down in the Commons she will lose a lot of sympathy in Brussels

Angus Walker

Former ITV News Correspondent

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker. Credit: AP

“In politics, sometimes you get a second chance.

"It is what you do with this second chance that counts,” the EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters at themidnight press conference in Strasbourg.

“There will be no third chance.

"There will be no further interpretations of the interpretations; no further assurances of the reassurances - if the meaningful vote fails tomorrow [Tuesday], this is it,” Juncker warned.

"‘Yeah, yeah", you can almost hear Brexit supporters saying.

The EU does have a penchant for last-minute, late-night deals and suddenly finding solutions at summits.

Next week’s gathering of EU leaders will be eyed, by some in Westminster, as a safety net.

The scenario could go like this: the Prime Minister loses the vote, but by less than 230, and returns to Brussels to get a final clinching concession from the EU at next week’s summit.

The Irish stretch their "backstop" red lines under pressure from fellow member states, and agree to a time limit to the backstop.

President Juncker clearly wants to avoid that scenario, hence his warning that was obviously aimed at Tory MPs and the DUP, to back the customised deal today.

The EU thought it had this done in November.

Britain is set to leave the EU on March 29. Credit: PA

Officials and diplomats are exhausted, the backstop has been brutal.

There is a weary annoyance with the UK.

The mood in the room when the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier briefed Ambassadors for the third time in five days on Monday was gloomy.

The arguments of the Irish backstop haven’t really changed since December 2017.

Back then the backstop was the stick in the spokes when Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker were about to sign off on the Brexit Phase One agreement.

That was held up when the DUP objected.

At the time, President Juncker reportedly lost his temper, furious that Mrs May had come to Brussels without the political backing she needed.

I’m told that the final days of talks, especially those involving Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay, were conducted in a strained atmosphere.

The EU team insisting time and time again that it could not offer more, could not satisfy Brexiter demands.

No time limits, no unilateral exit for the backstop would be possible.

See Michel Barnier’s tweets on Friday as a sign of that frustration boiling over.

The fear is that once again, as in December 2017, Mrs May and her ministers don’t have the mandate they need to get a freshened-up deal through Parliament.

This time, given the mood in Brussels, there really won’t be, can’t be, a third chance for the Prime Minister.