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Prime Minister battles to save Brexit deal with efforts to woo DUP

May hopes to woo the DUP to secure her Brexit deal. Credit: PA

Theresa May will continue efforts to salvage her Brexit deal amid further signs of pressure on her position.

Further talks are expected over the coming days with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the hope that persuading the 10 Northern Irish MPs to back the deal will help sway scores of Tory Eurosceptics to fall into line.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said lengthy talks on Friday with senior ministers including Chancellor Philip Hammond were “constructive” and is was a “renewed focus” from the Government on addressing their concerns.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds at Downing Street earlier this year. Credit: PA

Mr Dodds said: “We have had a constructive dialogue. Those discussions will continue over the coming period of time.”

The prime minister is expected to bring her Withdrawal Agreement back for a third vote early next week despite its overwhelming 149-vote defeat on Tuesday.

It has been a bruising week for the prime minister, with her Cabinet in open revolt as the focus on her leadership intensified.

The Daily Telegraph reported two senior Downing Street figures believe she should “fall on her sword,” by setting out the timetable for her departure.

Earlier this week, Conservative MP George Freeman called for the prime minister to resign her position to ensure the UK gets the departure it voted for.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s leadership has been questioned Credit: PA

Brussels has begun preparations for a possible delay to Brexit beyond the current March 29 deadline after MPs backed an extension to the Article 50 process.

Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics suggested a delay of up to two years could be required if MPs continue to reject the Brexit deal.

“Number one priority would be the deal that is reached is passed,” he said. “If it is not the case what we need is clear vision from the UK Government how much time UK needs to come up with new proposals, new ideas how we proceed. In that case it’s not a couple of months, I believe then we are talking about maybe one or two years.”

The PM hopes she can sway the DUP leader to vote with her. Credit: PA

European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans suggested any extension to Article 50 could be a two-stage process, initially limited to a few weeks unless Mrs May could set out what she wanted to achieve with the extra time.

He told Germany’s Funke newspaper “as long as this isn’t clear, Brexit can only be delayed for a few weeks, solely to avoid a chaotic withdrawal” on March 29.

“During this time, the British must tell us what they want: new elections? A new referendum? Only after that can we talk about a several-month extension,” he added.

There are fewer than two weeks until the UK is due to leave the EU. Credit: PA

Documents circulating among EU ambassadors make clear the bloc would terminate the UK’s membership on July 1 if it has not taken part in European Parliament elections.

The draft paper obtained by the Financial Times said Britain has to take part in the May 23-26 votes if it wants an extension of more than three months.

The EU guidance echoes the briefing provided to MPs at Westminster before Thursday’s vote, which said “if the UK were to seek an extension beyond July 1, and hence remain a member state beyond that point, it would need to participate in the EP elections”.

Campaigners in Westminster as the withdrawal deadline looms. Credit: PA

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, who voted against the Government motion requesting an Article 50 extension, indicated he would prefer a no-deal departure from the bloc to a long delay.

He said: “If we get the deal through as I hope we still will, we will now need a short, technical extension.

“But, if not, we shouldn’t be afraid to leave with no deal.”

Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey suggested fellow Brexiteers could back Mrs May’s “rubbish” deal next week to make sure the UK leaves the EU.

In a podcast recording, she said: “The element now is that people will have to take a bad deal rather than no deal.”

Any Brexit delay will require the agreement of the other 27 European Union members, with the issue likely to be on the table at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.

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Meanwhile, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage is setting out on his March to Leave, starting in Sunderland and due to arrive in Westminster at the end of the month.

The politician says the march is a protest against "betray the will of the people over Brexit," by parliamentarians.

Farage won't walk the whole way, just part of it, he revealed in a social media post. The march will conclude with a mass rally in Westminster's Parliament Square on March 29.