Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, the two key leaders of the EU, are expected to clash over the length of any Brexit delay, according to the Telegraph, citing unnamed diplomatic sources.
The EU is reportedly losing patience with Britain and attitudes in Brussels are beginning to harden after little progress towards agreement has been made since the six-month extension to 31 October was agreed in April, a move which ultimately saw Theresa May resign as prime minister to be replaced by Boris Johnson.
An extension beyond the 31 October deadline would go against Johnson's pledge to bring the UK out of the EU "with or without a deal."
"If London were to ask for an extension to prevent a no-deal, it would ultimately be hard to see how the EU27 could refuse that. However, frustration about the UK chaos is rising among the EU27. It is high time British society and politics overcome their deep divisions and forge a new consensus about the future UK role in Europe and the wider world," an EU source said.
Another senior EU official said that there has to be a "plausible reason" for another extension, which would involve either "an election or a second referendum".
As EU heads of state prepare to meet in Brussels for a summit on 17-18 October, Macron and Merkel are likely to be split over how long Brexit should be delayed.
Emmanuel Macron argued for a short extension back in April as he did not want to see the UK take part in EU elections.
But those leaders advocating an elongated six-month extension, including Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, and Chancellor Angela Merkel, of Germany, ultimately prevailed.
“In hindsight the French President was right on the short extension,” an EU diplomat said.
The German stance is not necessarily indefinite as internal economic pressure in Berlin rises, sources allege.
“Merkel always wants to keep room for her step by step approach but her businesses now clamour for clarity, especially as Germany is on the verge of a recession,” said to one diplomat.
Despite French foreign minister Yves Le Drian indicating that Paris could veto an extension, the EU has suggested that Macron could also soften his stance, reducing expectations that France would block it.
“We are not going to do this [extend the deadline] every three months.” Le Drian said, while the senior EU official stressed that it "is notable that President Emmanuel Macron has remained silent on this."
Dutch trade minister Sigrid Kaag said on Monday that the EU could simply cut Britain loose despite certain economic repercussions, as Brexit "distracts" from other issues such as the US-China trade war.
“At a point enough is enough. At that stage the certainty of deterioration might be better than continuing without perspective. At a certain point there must be clarity. So far, the British have not presented an alternative to the Brexit agreement that is already in place,” Kaag added.
The EU has said that the current agreement, which has already been rejected three times by the UK parliament, is no longer up for negotiation.
Patience Wearing Thin
Some within the EU are beginning to see long extensions as pointless.
“Not only did nothing happen until the Tory transfer of power but, notwithstanding assurances, nothing has been received since the G7 last month either. So, if at all, expect leaders to only back a limited extension. Britain must agree to any extension," said another official.
This follows Johnson's visit to Berlin and Paris in August to meet with both Merkel and Macron respectively, demanding that the Irish border backstop be ditched, while they gave him 30 days to come up with an alternative.
Since then Johnson has suffered consistent defeats, and seen no-deal being removed from the table in a vote in parliament. So far his attempts to call an election have also been rebuffed.
Parliament has moved to force a three month extension to January 2020 if no deal is struck with Brussels in October.
Irish PM Leo Varadkar, who met with Mr Johnson for talks in Dublin on Monday, has declared that “no backstop is no deal for us” as the backstop prevents the erection of a hard border in Ireland.
The EU has said it does not wish to see Ireland face severe economic consequences from a no-deal Brexit or the potential for a return to the kind of violence that preceded the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1999.