Sputnik discussed this with Catherine Barnard, Professor of European Union Law at the University of Cambridge.
Sputnik: Michel Barnier has said he is "strongly" opposed to key parts of Theresa May's proposals for a future trade deal. How likely is it that a trade agreement between London and Brussels will be reached by the set deadline?
Catherine Barnard: I think what we do need to be careful about is actually what we mean by 'no deal', because there are, in fact, three deals essentially in play here. The first one is the withdrawal agreement, that's the Article 50 agreement and that's about 80% agreed, but a big stumbling block there is the so-called backstop on Northern Ireland. They have to sort out having a border between the North and the South of Ireland without it actually being a physical border.
Then if that's agreed, built into that agreement is a second deal, which I was talking about, which is about transition going forward, and then a third deal is on the future relationship, and that's where Theresa May's Chequers plan comes into action. The idea is that in October or more likely in November, the EU will agree upon the Article 50 deal, the withdrawal agreement, plus transition and have some form of words which will say this is what the future relationship might look like. The trouble is all of those different things are getting knocked into one getting very confused when we talk about no deal.
Sputnik: The interesting thing from myself and probably quite a few commentators is that all of a sudden Theresa May seems to have become very strong-willed in her determination with regard to her uncompromising attitude towards this Brexit plan where a lot of commentators previously said that she was compromising on lots of things when it came to the initial negotiations. Now I don't know if this dance routine in Africa has affected her but it certainly seems that way, doesn't it?
Catherine Barnard: Well she's dancing in all sorts of ways, she's doing a dance not just with her African counterparts but more importantly, domestically with her own party and, of course, she's involved in the negotiation with the EU, and neither decide wants to look weak and so as in all negotiations both sides puff up their chest and say: my view is the one that's going to prevail. Inevitably there has to be compromise down the line on both sides, but neither party wants to be seen, to carry on the dance metaphor, to take the first step in the direction towards the other.
Sputnik: How is this current situation going to balance itself out within the actual Cabinet, because obviously there's lots of pro-Europeans now predominately in the Cabinet, isn't there?
Catherine Barnard: Although she's been very careful to try to keep and keep a balance between Leavers and Remainers in her cabinet, although David Davis stepped down he was replaced by Dominic Raab who is also a hardcore Brexiteer, Steve Baker who is also a Brexit minister has been replaced by Suella Braverman, so she's really trying to keep that balance but, of course, at the moment if she departs either towards leave or remain the other side cries foul, so absolutely she's just trying to keep everyone on board, but it doesn't make decision making easy.
Sputnik: I don't think anybody's got the mettle to want to really take over the prime minister's job in these very, very challenging times, and I think everyone just comes to the conclusion that she's best left getting on with that, have you got any other take? Are there any threats with regard to her position or is she going to see this through? It looks that way, doesn't it?
Catherine Barnard: It does; no matter how many times have we been here before, this is a make or break moment for Theresa May and yet she pulls through. I think you're right, that part of it is that it's a poisoned chalice as a job and nobody really wants this job, they all want her job, but after she has tried to navigate through these extremely choppy waters.
Sputnik: Does it look like Britain is going to leave the EU without a deal, or like some commentators are stating, that it's going to be absolute deadlock until the 12th hour and then the midnight oil is going to kick in and all these agreements are going to come flooding out the doors of Brussels, on the very eve of when the United Kingdom is going to leave the European Union?
Catherine Barnard: You've got to be a brave man or woman to put any money on any possible outcome of Brexit. We know Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, has said there's a 60/40 chance that the UK will leave without a deal. Dominic Raab, on the other hand, he's the Secretary of State for Brexit, he said he thinks it's highly likely that there will be a deal. I am more in the Dominic Raab camp than the Liam Fox camp on that, I think there will be some deal, but you know Brussels is used to going right up, right to the wire on these things. Of course, there are deals and deals that we were talking about before, the full-blooded withdrawal agreement and a very clear outline of what the future relationship might be or, more realistically, there will be fudging on both.
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