(fashion) Created with Sketch.
Boris Johnson insisted he is 'very hopeful' of a Brexit deal today - despite Michel Barnier complaining there are no 'concrete proposals'.
The Prime Minister insisted the 'landing space' for an agreement was becoming clear, amid fevered speculation about a watered-down Irish backstop.
However, the EU's chief negotiator swiped that he is still waiting for 'legally operational' ideas from the UK.
And one of his advisers warned there was 'no reason for optimism'.
Downing Street sources played down the tough line from the EU side, branding it a 'negotiating tactic'.
Diplomatic activity has been ramping up amid rising fears of No Deal, with just 49 days to go until Britain is due to leave the bloc.
The PM last night moved to quash claims he was wavering over the full removal of the pivotal Northern Irish border backstop, saying he would 'insist' it was scrapped.
But aides have been examining proposals for arrangements that would apply only to Northern Ireland, rather than aligning the whole UK with EU market rules.
EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier delivered the thinly-veiled rebuke to Boris Johnson as he arrived to brief MEPs in Brussels today (pictured)
European Parliament president David Sassoli waded into the spat today, insisting there will not be any deal without an Irish backstop. MEPs have a veto over any agreement
The blueprint would not be the same as the previous Northern Ireland-only backstop floated by Brussels, which was dismissed by Theresa May as something no British PM. That would have involved the province staying within the EU's jurisdiction for tax and single market rules.
Instead, the proposals is thought to be a much looser alignment of agricultural and other single market rules - although it is far from clear this will be acceptable to Brussels.
Here is how the coming weeks could pan out:
September 14-17: Lib Dem conference takes place in Bournemouth
September 17: Supreme Court hears case on whether prorogation of Parliament was illegal.
September 21-25: Labour conference in Brighton
September 29-October 2: Tory conference takes place in Manchester, with Mr Johnson giving his first keynote speech as leader on the final day. This will be a crucial waypointer on how Brexit talks are going.
October 14: Unless it has already been recalled following the court battle, Parliament is due to return with the Queen's Speech - the day before Mr Johnson had hoped to hold a snap election.
October 17-18: A crunch EU summit in Brussels, where Mr Johnson has vowed he will try to get a Brexit deal despite Remainers 'wrecking' his negotiating position.
October 19: If there is no Brexit deal by this date Remainer legislation obliges the PM to beg the EU for an extension to avoid No Deal.