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Who is Theresa May battling after Brussels summit?

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By Aubrey Allegretti, political reporter

Theresa May failed to make a Brexit breakthrough at the EU summit in Brussels, but with no new major concessions confirmed and the idea of a November summit scrapped she has won some vital breathing room after a highly-pressurised few weeks.

Despite this, the relative peace is unlikely to last for long. Who has Theresa May come out of Brussels battling?

:: Tory Brexiteers

Iain Duncan Smith
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Iain Duncan Smith said there was ‘no way on earth’ the transition should be extended

Rumblings have already kicked off from backbench Tory Brexiteers, angry at the suggestion the Brexit transition period could be extended.

They see it as yet another delay to being free of Brussels’ rules and regulations.

Former leader Iain Duncan Smith warned on Thursday night: “It’s very simple. We have to say to the EU that there is no way on earth that we are going to give you an extension…

“We have got to get some steel in our backbone.”

Rabble-rouser Andrea Jenkyns has also attacked the “ludicrous” suggestion that “must be stopped”.

But it’s not just the Conservatives that Mrs May would rely on support to get her deal through parliament.

She needs to win over Labour MPs too – but Brexiteer Kate Hoey has already branded the transition extension idea “just another concession”, saying the EU just wants to “delay and delay”.

:: The DUP

Arlene Foster speaks during day three of the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham
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Arlene Foster’s DUP is propping up the minority government

Mrs May’s supply and confidence partners, the DUP, are also less than pleased at her calling the proposal an “option”.

They said on Thursday night it would see the UK pay billions of pounds more to Brussels without changing the “fundamental problem” it is designed to solve – the Irish border backstop.

Extending the transition would leave more time for a free trade deal to be struck, solving the problem of how to stop a hard border on a new frontier with the EU.

But a backstop – or insurance for what happens if no deal is struck before the transition expires – will still have to be agreed.

The PM has kicked the can down the road, and she is running out of road to be able to do that.

Keep your eyes peeled on whether the DUP say they will support her budget on 29 October.

:: Remainers

Anna Soubry MP
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Remainers like Anna Soubry have also railed against the transition extension

As always in the careful balancing game, any decision is going to upset on multiple fronts.

The transition extension idea has been slammed by Conservative MP Philip Lee, a minister who quit the cabinet earlier this year to campaign against Brexit.

He called it “ludicrous” and added that “the longer this spins out the weaker the British position comes to negotiate”.

Europhile Anna Soubry also attacked the suggestion, saying it was just another “broken promise” after the government said a transition period was only necessary in the first place to implement an already negotiated trade deal.

:: The EU

Michel Barnier
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Michel Barnier warned he is ‘still not sure we’ll get’ a deal

Brussels has been far more calm coming out of the summit than on past occasions.

“We are in a much better mood than after Salzburg,” European Council President Donald Tusk announced after it ended.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, also said on Friday that 90% of the deal has been agreed.

But unless they reach 100% by early December, Britain risks crashing out of the EU without a deal.

In the same breath, Mr Barnier admitted: “I’m convinced a deal is necessary, I’m still not sure we’ll get one.”

:: Labour

Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Keir Starmer delivers his keynote address
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Labour has been keen to capitalise on the negotiations

Unsurprisingly, Labour and the SNP have been keen to capitalise on the lack of progress.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer declared on Thursday night that the negotiations were “a complete mess”.

“This very day is the day everybody predicted the Article 50 deal would be signed – that’s what the government said,” he raged.

Sir Keir attacked the “two sets of negotiations going on” – one between Mrs May and Brussels, and the other with her cabinet.

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