Britain has tabled a draft free trade agreement with the European Union in a bid to finally give a fresh start to the stalled Brexit negotiations, The Times reported, citing diplomats.
Although government sources have refused to confirm if a secret negotiating document - "a consolidated legal text" - was handed over to Brussels, it reportedly happened at a private dinner, in a desperate move on Britain's part, EU officials claim.
"It is the British under time pressure", a senior Brussels source close to the debate said, noting that the government had previously ruled out such a draft, despite the approaching deadline.
The EU has so far insisted that the details of a free trade agreement cannot be discussed without the sides moving "in parallel" on key sticking points.
The slow-running talks, which Brussels wants to wrap up by early October and the UK even sooner, remain deadlocked over a slew of contentious issues like the EU's access to Britain's fishing waters when the post-Brexit transition is finalised, and so-dubbed level playing field arrangements.
Britain is rooting for any agreement that will guarantee its governance and autonomy – political, economic, and financial – as an independent coastal state, while the EU has been vehemently demanding that Britain should not undercut its environmental and worker standards, and state aid procedures.
Should the sides fail to reach a compromise on the sticking points, the deadlock could leave the UK and EU trading on World Trade Organisation terms, whereby a host of tariffs and quotas will be introduced once the current transition period expires at the end of this year.
Another tabled issue is interstate migration post-Brexit. The bloc's negotiators have reportedly rejected a British request for a migration pact that would have allowed the government to carry on returning asylum seekers to European countries under the Dublin convention after the transition period ends.
This means that from 1 January 2021, Britain will lose the right to send back refugees and migrants to the EU countries they first arrived in under the aforementioned European system.
As reported by The Guardian, EU member states have ruled out the British proposal to recreate that system — including a reciprocal obligation for the UK to take in undocumented migrants arriving in the EU from the UK — once it fully leaves the bloc.
"The assessment is that this is very much picking and choosing aspects of the current EU system", a European diplomat told the paper.
As for headway in the trade talks, Downing Street has assured the government can still agree on a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU next month. The PM's spokesperson said that UK negotiators will "continue to plug the gaps" as talks progressed into the seventh round with Brussels this week.
Both David Frost, the UK's Brexit negotiator and his EU colleague Michel Barnier are expected to give an update on the state of the resumed talks on Friday.