Brexit: what are the odds of a deal and what remains to be agreed?

Talks enter 11th-hour phase with likelihood of an agreement hanging in the balance

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier returns to Brussels after the last round of negotiations in London
Talks enter 11th-hour phase with likelihood of an agreement hanging in the balance
(Image credit: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)

The unofficial deadline set by both UK and EU officials for agreeing a Brexit deal by the end of last week has come and gone, but negotiators are ploughing on in a last-ditch bid to secure a future trade agreement.

The EU “backed down over post-Brexit fishing arrangements” on Sunday night, in what may be a significant victory for Britain, The Telegraph reports. But the chances of securing a trade deal remain “on a knife edge” as talks continue with “other key issues unresolved”, the newspaper adds.

What are the odds of a deal?

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Officials on both sides had wanted the talks to be resolved by Sunday in order to push the resulting deal through the UK and EU’s respective parliaments.

Bu despite the failure to achieve that aim, the British government is maintaining a bullish tone. Foreign Minister James Cleverly told Times Radio this morning that the UK would not “roll over” for the sake of securing a treaty.

“Yes, time is tight, yes it might go right to the wire and, indeed, it may well be that we don’t get the deal,” he said. “But I think a deal is possible and we’ll keep working towards it until we get it.”

According to bookmakers, a deal is more likely than the UK crashing out of the bloc without one - but only just.

As of early Monday afternoon, William Hill had odds of 8/13 on a deal being signed before the Brexit transition period ends, while SBK had 13/19 and Smarkets had 4/6. The odds for the negotiators failing to come to an agreement were 5/4, 32/21 and 7/5 respectively.

What remains to be agreed?

Despite marking the “final stages of talks”, this week will not necessarily be the make-or-break moment given the various issues still to be resolved, says Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby.

However, officials in Brussels told Rigby that progress had been made over the weekend towards resolving the disagreements over fishing rights that have continued to hobble the negotiations.

No details have been released about the alleged breakthrough as yet, but sources close to the talks have suggested that the UK, which had “already offered a three-year transition period on fishing arrangements”, may have offered “an even longer transition of around five years”, says The Telegraph.

“In return, the EU would have to hand back at least 50% of its fish quotas from January 1 instead of the 18% it is currently offering,” the paper reports. But British sources “stressed late on Sunday night that a final agreement on fishing was yet to emerge”.

Another question mark remains over the “level playing field” (LPF) for business. EU countries were “united on LPF - unlike over fish - meaning Brussels can hold a united front for the rest of the talks”, potentially weakening UK negotiating power, according to Politico’s London Playbook.

Failure to resolve this sticking point could have catastrophic implications, according to the Daily Mail, which says the negotiations “are on the verge of meltdown today” amid “little sign of a breakthrough” in efforts to break the LPF deadlock.

Even if a future trade agreement is agreed, further hurdles remain.

As The Guardian notes, Boris Johnson “will have to sell the deal to the Brexit hardliners of the European Research Group”.

ERG deputy chair David Jones yesterday insisted that the group had “huge confidence” in the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost and his team - but described the outstanding sticking points as “an internal matter for the EU” to resolve.

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