On the eve of more divisive votes in Parliament over Brexit, the British government has downplayed a report that it plans to offer MPs a choice between backing Prime Minister Theresa May's unpopular divorce deal and a delay to the UK's exit from the European Union.
An ITV News correspondent, Angus Walker, said he overheard negotiator Olly Robbins in a Brussels bar saying the government would ask Parliament in late March to back her agreement, rejected by MPs last month, or seek an extension to the Brexit deadline.
Mrs May told MPs that Parliament had approved a two-year countdown to Brexit, and 'that ends on the 29th of March. We want to leave with a deal, and that's what we're working for.'
She told parliamentarians not to set much store in 'what someone said to someone else as overheard by someone else in a bar.'
MPs overwhelmingly rejected Mrs May's Brexit deal with the EU last month, and she is now trying to secure changes before bringing it back for another vote.
The EU insists it won't renegotiate the legally binding withdrawal agreement, though it is still holding talks with Britain about potential tweaks to a non-binding political declaration that accompanies it.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU wanted to 'do everything for a deal, but it certainly it has to be a fair deal ... and there we unfortunately still have a bit of work ahead of us.'
If a deal is not approved by the British and European parliaments before March 29, the UK faces a messy sudden Brexit that could cause severe economic disruption.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the government wants to secure a deal, but is also preparing for a 'no-deal' Brexit.
Opposition politicians have accused Mrs May of trying to fritter away time as the clock ticks down, in order to leave MPs with a last-minute choice between her deal and no deal.
Britain's Parliament will hold the latest in a series of debates and votes tonight, in which pro-EU MPs will try to change the government's course, ruling out a 'no-deal' Brexit and aiming for close post-Brexit ties with the EU.
The votes are not legally binding, and a House of Commons split between Brexit-backers and EU supporters has so far sent contradictory messages. In previous votes on January 29, MPs voted to rule out a 'no-deal' exit — without signalling how that should happen — and also told May to seek changes to her Brexit agreement from the EU.
On Tuesday, Mrs May urged MPs to give her more time, promising Parliament yet another series of votes on the next steps in the Brexit process on February 27 if she has not secured changes to the Brexit deal by then.
'What the Prime Minister is up to is obvious,' Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said.
She's coming to Parliament every other week, pretending there's progress and trying to buy another two weeks, edging her way toward March 21, when the next EU summit is, to try to put her deal up against no-deal in those final few weeks.
'Parliament needs to say 'That's not on.''