It was far from the "decisive progress" the 27 had wanted and they agreed to call off - for now at least - a planned November 17-18 summit that was to have inked an agreement. Both sides agree there must be no hard border that could disrupt businesses and residents on both sides and undermine Northern Ireland's hard-won peace process.
Reuters also reported that European Union leaders would discuss support for free trade, the Iran nuclear deal and combating global warming, but also forging relationships with China, Japan and Russian Federation as a counterbalance to a more protectionist United States.
But she failed to respond to a call by EU President Donald Tusk for "concrete proposals" of her own to move the talks forward. So we need time, we need much more time.
Tajani said May told him she would consider it but gave no indication of whether she favoured such an extension.
"They are trying to leave this so late that they can credibly say there is no alternative but a "no-deal" Brexit, and most people agree that would be chaos", Boles told the BBC.
"The EU27 leaders stand ready to convene a European Council, if and when the union negotiator reports that decisive progress has been made".
Nobody really wants Britain to crash out of the European Union without a withdrawal deal, but time is running out and the sides have bogged down over the contentious issue of how to manage the Irish border.
"I think "soft Brexit" seems to be unfortunately out of the question", Stubb said of the possibility that the U.K.might maintain close economic ties to the EU.
The Institute of Directors, which represents UK business leaders, also told Yahoo Finance UK that it welcomed May's words.
The Prime Minister was understood to have discussed pushing the end of the so-called "implementation period" beyond its current December 2020 deadline.
The EU has also argued against Britain cherrypicking by staying in the single market for years while having no obligations of EU membership.
Although the summit had been billed as a "moment of truth", when a deal must be finalized to allow an orderly exit by Britain on March 29, the moment of truth has been delayed.
"The blame for this mess falls squarely at the prime minister's feet", said the party's Brexit spokesman Tom Brake.
The proposed 12-month extension would cost billions of pounds in EU fees and leave Britain under European rules for nearly six years after the referendum result.
But with Brexit talks at an impasse, the bloc has suggested extending that period, to give more time to strike a trade deal that ensures the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland remains friction-free - the main sticking point to a Brexit deal.
But this issue is causing a major stumbling block in finalising any Brexit deal.
One of the people familiar with the discussions said May's Tory party would find it hard to be fighting the next general election - due in 2022 - while the country is still inside the single market and customs union.
Arriving for the summit, she insisted that a deal is achievable and that "now is the time to make it happen".
Lidington rejected claims that an extension would cost Britain more than $13.1 billion United States in payments to the European Union in order to stay in the bloc's single market and customs union for another year.
"The last stage will need courage, trust and leadership on both sides", she said. European Union negotiators proposed this to ease a demand for special rules for Northern Ireland.
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