Britain's weakened prime minister, Theresa May, yesterday said she did not expect to secure a quick breakthrough in Brexit talks that would give her fractured party the reassurances needed to get her deal through parliament.
Arriving in Brussels just a day after a failed attempt to topple her at home, May was met largely by readiness to help from European Union leaders and one demand: tell us want you want.
Britain's departure from the EU, its biggest shift in trade and foreign policy for more than 40 years, is proving anything but smooth, complicated by the deep divisions in her Conservative Party, the lower House of Commons and the country as a whole.
With less than four months before Britain is due to leave on March 29, May faces deadlock in parliament over the deal she agreed with the EU last month but which has hardened opposing positions at home, throwing up more uncertainty for businesses trying to predict what will happen to the $2.8 trillion economy.
"I recognise the strength of concern in the House of Commons and that is what I will be putting to colleagues today," May said. "I don't expect an immediate breakthrough, but what I do hope is that we can start work as quickly as possible on the assurances that are necessary."
EU leaders were clear. They all said they needed to know exactly what May wanted to secure in Brussels but also warned that Britain could not reopen the divorce deal, or withdrawal agreement, signed off by both sides in November.
While others tried to temper their language by expressing a desire to help May, French President Emmanuel Macron ruled out any legal changes tothe agreement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was less strident, saying: "We can of course talk about whether there are additional assurances but in this the 27 EU members are together and will make their interests clear, although always in the spirit that we want very, very good relations with Great Britain after Great Britain has left the European Union."
May met the EU leaders to discuss Brexit yesterday, less than 24 hours after she survived a no confidence vote among Conservative lawmakers in London, when critics of her plan tried to bring her down.
She won the secret ballot 200-117 but the size of the vote against her merely deepened divisions just weeks before parliament needs to approve a deal to prevent a disorderly exit from the EU. Victory also came at a price - May promised she would step down by the next election scheduled for 2022.