SO desperate for good news are the markets that when Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab left Tuesday’s crunch cabinet meeting and gave reporters in Downing Street the thumbs up, eager traders took it as a sign to start buying, sending the pound soaring.

But reports from the Prime Minister’s official spokesman just a few moments later made clear that Raab’s thumbs up was only a thumbs up, and not an indication of an imminent trade agreement between London and Brussels.

READ MORE: Brexiteers are finally being forced to face up to the facts

After a mammoth three-hour meeting between Theresa May and her ministers, nothing had changed.

Her spokesman told press that while “95% of the withdrawal agreement had been concluded,” there were “still a number of issues that we need through” on the question of the Northern Irish backstop.

That includes the vexed issue of timing and if there’s a mechanism to “ensure that the UK could not be held in the arrangement indefinitely”.

May’s spokesman told reporters that the Prime Minister “was confident of reaching a deal” but that “while the UK should aim to conclude the withdrawal agreement as soon as possible, this would not be done at any cost”.

Just last month there had been the prospect of a EU summit on November 17, but with little movement between the parties this is unlikely.

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The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, above, said he too thought a breakthrough was not close.

“For now, we are still negotiating and I am not, as I am speaking to you this morning, able to tell you that we are close to reaching an agreement,” he told Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

“There is still a real point of divergence on the way of guaranteeing peace in Ireland, that there are no borders in Ireland, while protecting the integrity of the single market.”

Optimism that a deal could be reached this week was fuelled by Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who told the Prime Minister on Monday that he was ready to consider a review mechanism as part of a backstop.

Though he also made it clear that he would not accept an arrangement which gave the UK unilateral powers to ditch the customs union without the agreement of Brussels.

May’s quandary remains finding some way of keeping Northern Ireland without a hard border, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The only way this can be achieved is through some form of regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the EU.

But that would upset Brexiteer Tories and the DUP who prop up May’s government.

Meanwhile, a cross-party group of British MEPs have written to every Member of the European Parliament to ask them to consider the extension of the Article 50 timetable.

The letter, signed by MEPs for Scotland Alyn Smith and Catherine Stihler, asks “our friends in the European Parliament, and in EU capitals” to give Britain time to avert a “blind Brexit”.