BRITAIN and Europe were supposed to have signed off on their divorce at this week’s EU summit, but yesterday Theresa May revealed that negotiations had barely budged.

Scottish Brexit Secretary Michael Russell said the lack of a breakthrough at the “moment of truth” meeting had left the Tory leader humiliated.

The Prime Minister is facing a growing rebellion at home over reports she was considering the possibility of extending the implementation period – the time between Brexit day and the day the UK finally leaves Europe and when the new arrangements start.

READ MORE: MPs told they will be given binary choice on Brexit deal

The purpose of the implementation, or transition, period is to allow businesses time to prepare, to avoid disrupting holidaymakers and to implement international security measures.

But Brexiteers hate it as it means abiding by EU rules right up until it ends.

The Tory leader insisted she hadn’t proposed the extension, but suggested the idea had come from somewhere else and that she was merely considering it.

May and the EU have already pencilled in the transition ending in December 2020, though even that date has not yet been approved by Parliament. There were reports the Government could extend it by months or even by another year.

This could then see it impact on the Holyrood election in 2021, and the next scheduled General Election in 2022.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, May said: “There is a lot of hard work ahead, there will be more difficult moments as we enter the final stages of the talks, but I’m convinced we will secure a good deal that is in the interests of the UK and of the European Union.”

She added: “I’m not standing here proposing an extension to the implementation period. What has now emerged is the idea that an option to extend the implementation period could be a further solution to this issue of the backstop in Northern Ireland,” she said.

The Scottish Brexit Secretary said the summit had been “yet another humiliation for the Prime Minister”.

The National:

“It is extraordinary that there is more unity among 27 EU countries than there is among the Prime Minister’s own Cabinet,” said Russell.

“Tory divisions are paralysing the UK Government and leading Scotland to the brink of a catastrophic no-deal outcome.

“Short of the best option of remaining in the EU, the clear and obvious way forward to protect jobs and living standards is to stay in the customs union and single market – which is eight times the size of the UK market alone.

He added: “This must now become the immediate objective of the UK Government rather than doomed attempts to reconcile the warring factions of the Tory party.”

However, there was a more upbeat assessment of May’s chances of securing a deal from German chancellor Angela Merkel. She told journalists that she had left the summit dinner table with “neither more pessimistic, nor more optimistic”.

But, she said, “Where there is a will, there is a way, that is usually the case.”

Merkel said countries were preparing for no deal, but “purposely did not want to discuss this in detail” on Wednesday night, “because we did not want to give the impression we were focusing on this”.

The block in negotiations remains the EU backstop, the “safety net” that would leave Northern Ireland within the European customs union if no trade deal can be reached between London and Brussels.

The DUP, who prop up May’s government in the Commons reject any deal that will see them treated different from the rest of the UK.

That view is shared by senior Scottish Tories, including David Mundell and Ruth Davidson, who have threatened to resign over the issue.

Meanwhile, May was criticised by Sinn Fein president Michelle O’Neill for refusing to meet her party or the SDLP or Alliance to discuss issues related to Brexit.

O’Neill said: “In order to preserve her toxic alliance with the DUP, she is trampling over the rights of citizens by acquiescing to that party’s refusal to share power on the basis of equality.”