Germany has boosted hopes in Downing Street that a controversial part of the Brexit deal will be able to be changed.
Chancellor Angela Merkel revealed she is ready to listen to proposals to solve the Irish backstop “riddle”.
That is the insurance policy to prevent a physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic if a trade deal cannot be struck in time.
Ms Merkel suggested “creativity” was the key and said she was open to suggestions from the UK side.
“To solve this riddle, you have to be creative and you have to listen to one another,” she told journalists during a trip to Japan.
“We can have those conversations, so we can use the remaining time to perhaps remove the obstacles that have so far stood in the way and find an agreement if everyone is willing.
“But we must hear from Great Britain how they want to do it.”
Civil servants have been drafted in to hammer out a plan to change the backstop, or prepare Britain better to leave the EU without a deal.
They are examining the Malthouse Compromise – a Tory peace plan invented by housing minister Kit Malthouse.
It would see the UK press Brussels to change the backstop so that “technological solutions” are used to stop a hard border, instead of Northern Ireland staying aligned to EU regulations.
If that fails, the UK would ask for a transition period to a no-deal divorce, ending in December 2021.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has already ruled out changing the backstop, and previously rejected granting a transition period to no-deal.
Mrs May is in Northern Ireland on Tuesday giving a speech admitting the nation faces a “concerning time”.
But she will vow to “find a way” to deliver Brexit without the hard border reforming.
Whatever Brexit compromise she manages to navigate, it will have to have the support of the DUP – the Northern Irish party propping up the government.
MPs will get a chance to vote on her progress on 14 February at the latest, if she still has not got a renegotiated deal.
The UK is due to leave the EU by default on 29 March.
(c) Sky News 2019: Germany boosts hopes of Brexit backstop renegotiation