"A further idea which has emerged - and it is only an idea at this stage - is to create an option to extend the implementation period for a matter of months and it would only be a matter of months", the email read. But she said she didn't believe the extension would be needed.
The letter signed by former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis and other pro-Brexit Conservatives warned May not to "engage in a show of resistance and a choreographed argument followed by surrender" to the EU.
She added: 'What we are doing is working to ensure that we have a solution to the backstop issue to guarantee no hard border between Northern and the Irish Republic'. "It doesn't resolve any of the underlying issues and keeps us in a painful Brexit holding pattern".
For now, however, both sides seemed to be happy to kick any solution to that problem a little bit further down the road. Tusk on Tuesday called on May to bring new, concrete proposals to Brussels on the Irish border question, but May did not present anything new in her speech.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told France Inter radio on Friday that "90% of the accord on the table has been agreed with Britain" but added: "I'm convinced a deal is necessary, I'm still not sure we'll get one".
Her aides say she has had little choice but to countenance an extension of talks and a prolonged transition amid mounting British government alarm that European Union leaders and the bloc's other national governments are close to pulling the plug entirely on Brexit negotiations, and are ready to accept that Britain may crash out of the bloc without any kind deal.
Like May, European leaders continue to express confidence a deal can be struck - even as they are growing fearful of an unruly separation.
"They are trying to leave this so late that they can credibly say there is no alternative but a "no-deal" Brexit, and most people agree that would be chaos", Boles told the BBC.
Britain officially is to leave the bloc in March and to have agreed to an exit deal well before then, but London and Brussels previously had agreed there would be a transition period to conclude at the end of 2020, by which time both sides hope some kind of trade agreement also would have been concluded.
But the meeting that had been painted as a make-or-break moment for a Brexit deal ended with a whimper.
"Many Conservative MPs (lawmakers) are making clear to the government that we won't support legislation seeking to prolong transition and large payments for no good reason", said John Redwood, a Conservative Brexit supporter.
Wednesday's Brexit summit dinner in Brussels was supposed to be the "moment of truth" when states gave the green light for Brexit, say Daniel Boffey and Jennifer Rankin in the Guardian.
"Mrs May's Brexit betrayal slowly slithers into view", said Ukip leader Gerard Batten.
The situation is tricky and European leaders are quite exasperated. This is now set to last 21 months, between the exit day on March 29 next year and the end of 2020. A deal must be sealed soon so parliaments have time to give their verdict on it.
"There's no need to dramatize matters".
"It is always the case in negotiations that they are tense and hard and challenging at the end".
The latest Brexit crisis has its origins in the agreement which the Government reached on December 8, 2017, in the Joint Report from the European Union and United Kingdom negotiators.
As she tries to hit those marks, May faces the daunting task of not only negotiating with the EU's 27 countries but also selling the terms of any deal to hard-line Brexiteers at home.
"The substantive area of disagreement is whether we would agree to a backstop which would allow for customs barriers down the Irish Sea - the effective break-up of the United Kingdom - or whether we agree to a backstop which would allow the UK as a whole to stay in the customs union indefinitely", he said.
Britain says it has not asked for an extension - but didn't rule it out Wednesday. "The tone was of someone who wants to reach an agreement".
But Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite said there would be "no breakthrough" this week because May lacked a strong mandate from her party and parliament.
Nonetheless, the European institutions said Monday that their preparations for a no-deal scenario were being intensified. They do not know themselves what they want.
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