Boris Johnson has suffered a blow to his proposed Brexit deal as the Democratic Unionist Party said it cannot support plans “as things stand”.
The support of the Northern Irish party is seen as crucial if the PM is to win Parliament’s approval for the deal in time for his 31 October deadline.
The DUP said it would continue to work with the government to try to get a “sensible” deal.
It comes as Mr Johnson heads to a crunch summit to get the EU’s approval.
The BBC’s Europe editor Katya Adler said EU ambassadors had expected to get a copy of the legal text of a deal this morning, but it had not arrived.
One EU diplomat told her: “We are more and more pessimistic.”
The PM spoke to the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of the meeting, with the EU’s chief spokeswoman tweeting: “Every hour and minute counts before the [summit]. We want a deal.”
And German Chancellor Angela Merkel said negotiations were “on a better path now”, but added: “Let me say clearly this morning, we haven’t reached the goal.”
The UK government has yet to approve any legal text and the DUP remains unhappy about elements of the prime minister’s revised plan for Northern Ireland.
In a joint statement released on Thursday, the DUP’s leader and deputy said discussions with the government were “ongoing”, but “as things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues and there is a lack of clarity on VAT”.
“We will continue to work with the government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom,” Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds added.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said it was a “very sensitive moment in the negotiations”, and while there was still a “possibility” of a deal, it required “more hard work and more pragmatism on all sides”.
Mr Johnson’s proposals for a new Brexit deal hinge on getting rid of the controversial backstop – the solution to Irish border issues agreed by former PM Theresa May which proved unpalatable to many MPs.
However, his plans would see Northern Ireland treated differently from the rest of the UK – something the DUP, among others, has great concerns about.
The DUP has helped prop up the Conservative government since the 2017 general election.
In the past, a number of Tory Brexiteers have said their own support for a Brexit deal was contingent on the DUP’s backing of any agreement.
News from The BBC