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Negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) between chief negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier began in March but, more than four months later, little progress appears to have been made, triggering increasing fears talks are on the verge of collapse. Both sides have bemoaned the lack of progress so far and blamed each other for hardline stances in a number of areas, predominantly fishing, the level playing field, state aid, security and the City of London’s access to EU financial markets after Brexit. This has led to fears time is running out to get a deal agreed, with both sides keen on having one ready for the European Parliament to ratify in October to meet the transition period deadline of December 31.
Last week, the UK’s chief negotiator Mr Frost warned Conservative Party MPs Britain could win just 60 percent of its objectives in any trade deal with the EU after Brexit talks between the two sides once again ended in stalemate.
His shock admission to Tory ministers reportedly came after another week of failed negotiations on a free trade agreement, which has intensified fears a deal will not be struck before the transition period deadline.
A Tory insider told the Sunday Times: “His view seems to be that we will get a deal, but he doesn’t seem to be completely thrilled with what it is likely to be.
“When people hear that we are getting 60 percent of what we want, the question on everyone’s lips is: ‘What is the 40 percent we are giving away?'”
This has led to fears Brexiteers could demand UK negotiators pursue the EU for a full and more detailed trade agreement, or threaten Brussels with a no deal warning if objectives aren’t met and the EU continues to stand firm on a number of red lines.
But Alex De Ruyter, Politics Professor at Birmingham City University and Director of Centre for Brexit Studies, told Express.co.uk: “It’s tautological to state that if we can’t agree a deal then there will be no deal.
“Both sides know that this is a real risk in the present talks. The purpose of these is to find a mutually beneficial situation that is better for both sides than no deal.
“Negotiations are exactly that – they involve give-and-take on both sides and you should never expect to achieve all of your objectives.
“If I started a business with the objective of making £1 million in five years and end up only achieving 60% of that then I would be pretty happy.
“Of course, we don’t know which 60% Frost expects or hopes to achieve, so there is uncertainty here.”
Professor De Ruyter warned a no deal outcome “would be a silly place to end up” as there is still time to make leeway on a number of red lines currently holding up talks.
He claimed the UK achieving 60 percent of objectives in a trade deal with the EU would be a “satisfactory outcome” for both sides.
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The political expert said: “I am sure that the UK Government is genuine is pushing very hard for a deal that meets all its objectives.
“However, I would suggest 60 percent is a lot better than zero – you only walk away from a deal if the deal is worse than having no agreement at all.
“Since there is clear space for a series of agreements that are mutually beneficial, No Deal would seem a silly place to end up.
He added: “If you achieve 60 percent of your objectives then by definition you have got most of what you wanted.
“Obviously you’d love to have 80 percent or 100 percent, but if the UK achieves 60 percent of what it wants and the EU achieves something like 60 percent of what they want then that’s probably a reasonable outcome.
“Of course, there would be a need to revise and build on the agreement in a few years’ time as technology evolves and new governments have slightly different objectives.”
But Professor De Ruyer warned if the UK negotiators try to pursue comprehensive FTA with the EU, “there certainly will be no deal because the EU will walk away”.
He concluded: “A no deal Brexit outcome is a very real possibility, particularly given that the UK Government was unwilling to extend the transition period after December 31, so leaving very little time for negotiation.
“If the UK tries to achieve 100% of its objectives then there certainly will be no deal because the EU will walk away, and vice versa.
“What both sides profess to be looking for is a reasonable landing zone that is better than no deal for both of them.”
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