The European Union made clear on Wednesday it was not shutting the door to any Brexit deal and made itself available for last-minute negotiations but also stressed that London would need to move considerably to secure an agreement.
With Britain due to leave the bloc on Oct. 31, the comments by European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier were aimed more at sidestepping any blame for whatever the final outcome of the increasingly intractable divorce than signalling a deal was in the making.
"I don't accept this blame game that started in London. Personally, I don't exclude a deal," Juncker told the European Parliament's plenary session. "The risk of a no-deal remains real and basically is going to come down to a decision by the UK government, but will never be the choice -- the preferred option -- of the European Union."
"That's why I think it is better now to focus on what we can do in terms of concluding that deal, something which is desirable and still, in my view, possible."
Barnier listed three main reasons why the EU could not accept the latest UK proposals on Brexit: customs solutions envisaged for the island of Ireland, the role of Northern Irish authorities and a lack of legally operable solutions to ensure it all works.
"To put things frankly, we are not really in a position to be able to find agreement with the UK," he said, while adding he would make himself available 24/7 in the coming days to try to seal a deal, which was "still possible" with political will.