The EU and UK embarked on an intensified final phase of Brexit talks at the end of this week after Britain agreed to lift its block on negotiations. The breakthrough came after a call between the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost, with both sides agreeing to restart talks. Negotiations had been deadlocked because of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to demand a “fundamental” rethink from the bloc before allowing further meetings.
Mr Barnier and Lord Frost agreed a ten-point plan for the “next and final phase of the negotiations”, including working through weekends and establishing a “small joint secretariat to hold a master consolidated text”.
However, a Downing Street spokesperson said "it is clear that significant gaps remain between our positions in the most difficult areas", such as the level playing field and fishing rights.
Mr Johnson had criticised a statement adopted by EU leaders at a summit last week that called on the UK “to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible”, saying there was no point continuing talks if all concessions needed to come from the British side.
After almost 9 months of negotiations, it is still not clear whether Britain will go home with a deal at the end of the transition period or not.
Brexit insight: Theresa May’s 'catastrophic strategic error affecting talks today'
UK's chief Brexit negotiator David Frost with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier
And according to a recent report by Lee Rotherham, the former director of Special Projects at Vote Leave, former Prime Minister Theresa May is to blame.
Mr Rotherham explained: "The EU has historically arranged trade deals with other countries in 65 – almost certainly more – distinct ways over time, as it itself has chosen to define them.
"More importantly, the minimalist nature of the treaties at the bottom end of this vast scale are such that they demonstrate that a collapse of today’s Brexit talks can still deliver a range of low-hanging fruit.
"The EU is perfectly used to packaging together 'mini deals' when it’s not been able to get better.
"Simply put, if a decent FTA is binned by the Commission, there is no excuse for the talks not delivering a fall back Plan B of a simpler enabling arrangement.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen
"And if that doesn’t happen, there is absolutely zero pretext of not generating a Plan C of a text to hang a range of mini-deals from. Any press officer from the Commission who says otherwise is spinning more than a pulsar."
Mr Rotherham broke down all the different trade deals pursued by the bloc.
The first group involves EU Membership status, official or otherwise.
Next, there is the group that sits in close orbit, constituting Regulatory or Customs Union, or both.
The third category are those examples where the UK has been aiming for under Mr Johnson.
These are what we might call the "Developed Trade Deals", keeping trade firmly intergovernmental via FTAs or FTA+s.
Additionally, there are what might be grouped together as Baselines Behind Bilaterals and Multilaterals.
Finally, there are what one might term the Long Spoon Arrangements, involving closed or closed-off societies or economies.
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Former Prime Minister Theresa May
According to the strategist, in the process of moving from core EU membership, Mrs May’s team made "a catastrophic strategic error in aiming for the second type of deal, trying to minimise change rather than embrace the referendum mandate".
If she had gone for a Free Trade Agreement from the beginning, Mr Rotherham argued, talks might have gone a different way.
However, the prominent eurosceptic noted that with luck, Britain may still end up with a deal in the third group.
He concluded in his piece for Global Vision: "But looking at the lists, if we don’t, and if we cross reference back to the negotiating mandate that the Council set Barnier, a number of the objectives are still covered in reasonable depth in the trade facilitating type of treaty.
"Even then, if a developed agreement still can’t be reached, there are plenty of examples of simpler enabling deal that can act as a pier for continuity even as the legal basis for cooperation otherwise recedes as a tide."