EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier effectively took an axe to Theresa May’s plans today as the Brexit crisis deepened.

Just hours after the PM pleaded for the EU to drop its ‘unworkable’ Irish border demands, Mr Barnier complained that her Chequers blueprint – which would see the UK collect some tariffs for Brussels and follow a ‘common rule book’ on goods – undermined the single market and would cause ‘unjustifiable’ bureaucracy.

In a withering assessment that will ramp up fears of ‘no deal’ Brexit, Mr Barnier questioned whether the UK could be trusted to rake in taxes on behalf of the EU.

He also hinted that Mrs May might be forced into even more concessions by domestic political pressures, jibing that the ‘intense’ debate in the UK was ‘not over’. 

The brutal intervention will dash the premier’s hopes that she could make a breakthrough after forcing the compromise plan through Cabinet.

Delivering a speech in Belfast this morning, Mrs May again appealed for the EU  to take a ‘pragmatic’ approach.

The bitter spat over how to avoid a hard Irish border issue has been threatening to torpedo the talks altogether as both sides adopt increasingly entrenched positions.

Mrs May warned that Northern Ireland cannot stay within Brussels’ jurisdiction for customs and regulations, saying she could ‘never accept’ terms that would tear the UK apart.

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