Theresa May has accepted the offer of more talks with Jeremy Corbyn to break the Brexit deadlock, boosting chances of a breakthrough.
The prime minister indicated their teams should meet “as soon as possible” – with fewer than 50 days to go until the UK leaves the EU and no agreement ratified by parliament.
She vowed to take up the points raised by Mr Corbyn in a letter, replying to an earlier one sent by the Labour leader setting out his price for passing a deal.
Tory MPs voted last month to back the divorce terms negotiated with Brussels – but with the controversial Irish backstop stripped out and replaced with “alternative arrangements”.
Mrs May asked Mr Corbyn to sit down with Downing Street aides to “discuss the exact nature of those alternative arrangements”.
The current backstop would see the UK remain in a customs union with the EU, with Northern Ireland retaining some extra regulatory alignment to keep an open border with the Republic of Ireland.
Mrs May gave brief responses and questions to some of Mr Corbyn’s points, but said the details were best hammered out between their teams.
She added it was “good to see that we agree that the UK should leave the EU with a deal” and that it remains the most “urgent task at hand”.
In a jibe likely to rile Labour MPs and members, the prime minister also pointed out that Mr Corbyn did not mention another referendum in his original letter.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer scrambled to reassure the party amid fears it signalled Labour had given up pursuing another poll.
“It does not take the option of a public vote off the table,” he wrote on Twitter.
MPs will gather in Westminster on Monday for another crucial week of Brexit debates as the Brexit secretary heads to Brussels for talks with the EU’s chief negotiator.
Mrs May has promised MPs a chance to propose and vote on their own Brexit plans on Thursday – if she has not returned with a renegotiated deal by then.
The EU has ruled out changing the Withdrawal Agreement but indicated it could add further clarifications about the backstop, or update the non-binding political declaration on the type of future relationship it wants to pursue with the UK.
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire revealed on Sunday that MPs may not get a chance to vote on accepting or rejecting a final deal until March.