Downing Street downplayed the prospect of an early break in the Brexit talks despite hopes of a compromise on the Irish backstop, as Boris Johnson prepared for the meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
In number 10, there was a renewed desire for agreement as parliamentarians passed a bill aimed at blocking Brexit without an agreement on 31 October and twice rejected Johnson's call for early parliamentary elections.
However, the government does not intend to publish detailed written proposals as Prime Minister Theresa wants to avoid the fate of having her carefully crafted compromise of party colleagues publicly shot.
Downing Street expects that the EU will barely compromise before the crucial summit of the European Council on 17 October – and plans to blame the rebel MPs for failing to do so.
A Downing Street source said, "There's no way they're going to move – it's going to be the 17th before we get a flash of light [Jeremy] Corbyn and his buyback bill have significantly reduced the chance of a deal. "
The main focus is on finding a way to allow customs and other controls outside the Irish border so that Northern Ireland, together with the rest of the United Kingdom, can leave the EU Customs Union. In turn, Northern Ireland would remain in key areas, including agriculture, within the EU's regulatory zone, a proposal Johnson has already publicly signaled.
Johnson hopes that the Democratic Unionist Party, despite its previous objections to any sort of border in the Irish Sea, can be won for compromise.
The party leader, Arlene Foster, insisted on Friday that Britain must "leave as a nation," after a report in the Times pointed out that her party's attitude is waning.
The government hopes the Stormont Assembly, once restored to power sharing, could also be part of a solution by democratically agreeing to agreements that bring Northern Ireland into line with the EU.
However, the Irish Deputy Prime Minister doubted this proposal on Friday. "There is certainly concern at EU level that a decentralized body in Northern Ireland could veto the functioning of the single market or a single market barrier, which is not as easy as some people suggest," said Simon Coveney said after a two-day "think-in" party in Cork.
Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach, said there had been "constant contact with the DUP" and other parties in Northern Ireland, and it is estimated that more government-level talks are planned next week. However, he said he knew nothing about changing the position of trade unionists over their refusal to accept checks in the Irish Sea to keep the Irish border invisible.
The talks between Johnson and Juncker on Monday will take place at a lunch in the home country of the President of the European Commission, where he was prime minister for 18 years. The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, who recently called for "concrete proposals from Downing Street," will join the two leaders. Johnson will then hold talks with current Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.
EU sources suggested that Johnson had tried to avoid a meeting in Brussels for fear of giving the impression that he was asking for concessions. A spokeswoman for the European Commission said the site was chosen "by consensus" and would give Juncker the advantage of getting directly from talks to Strasbourg, where the European Parliament will meet next week.
She said that the meeting "would take place in a neutral place, which is true [we] will not disclose ".
Johnson's communications team believes that May has undermined herself in public by flying to Brussels to negotiate.
EU officials are concerned about the lack of detailed proposals from the United Kingdom, although Johnson has shown early goodwill in a series of one-on-one interviews with Heads of State and Government.
You have also observed the turmoil in Parliament in recent days. Johnson's government was shaken this week by the Scottish court's ruling that his suspension of parliament was illegal, and he was disturbed by a speech in Rotherham on Friday.
However, Johnson's advisors believe that despite the upheavals in Westminster, their national agenda – including increasing resources for schools and police – is gradually being registered with focus group voters and polls.
Johnson is expected to shift the focus to law and order next week as he continues to announce manifest commitments, expecting MPs to eventually yield to his desire for a general election instead of allowing him to continue to govern without a majority.