U.K. and European Union negotiators are heading into an intense two weeks of negotiations to try and secure a comprehensive trade agreement after seven months of talks ended in stalemate.
To reach a deal, both sides will need to find compromises on state aid and fishing—the two big areas of disagreement that have so far prevented a deal being struck.
Here’s a guide to how the final rounds of discussions could pan out.
Oct. 5: Back to the negotiating room
Negotiators from both sides will embark on two weeks of intensive talks in London and then Brussels to thrash out their differences following a weekend call between U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
In this period, EU officials will try to persuade French President Emmanuel Macron to back down on his demands over fishing for fear it could scupper the entire trade accord. Most member states and the Commission, which is negotiating with the U.K. on the bloc’s behalf, are known to favor a softer position than Macron.
The EU’s executive arm wants to resolve the dispute before a summit scheduled for Oct. 15. Its chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, will discuss Brexit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Oct. 5, a sign the bloc is weighing where it can make concessions.
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Oct. 7: EU diplomats meet
This will be a key indicator of how optimistic the EU is about the chances of a deal being reached. Watch carefully for where the bloc says progress has, or has not, been made.
Oct. 13: EU General Affairs Council
European Affairs ministers will get together in Luxembourg to prepare for the summit later in the week. This could lay the groundwork for any decisions to come at the big meeting.
Oct. 15: Johnson’s deadline
Johnson has told the EU he wants to know if a deal is achievable by now. That leaves open the possibility that the negotiations could stretch on for another few weeks if the two sides are close.
Oct. 15-16: EU summit
EU leaders will hold a meeting in Brussels. Originally, they wanted any agreement to be nailed down by now to allow time in case individual member states need to ratify it. Leaders have since indicated they may allow the talks to stretch into early November.
If there isn’t a deal on the table by now, Macron is likely to come under pressure from his counterparts to back down, according to officials.
But if a deal is within reach, expect the leaders to get a brief update on the discussions while negotiators try to hammer out the final details in the privacy of the so-called Brussels tunnel.
End Oct.-early Nov.: The deadline
This is the last likely moment a deal can be struck and implemented in time for the year-end. But if Brexit negotiations have taught us one thing, it is that seemingly immovable deadlines can be moved.
Nov. 23-26: European Parliament Meets
The European Parliament holds a plenary session, giving it an opportunity to ratify any deal.
Dec. 10-11: Another summit
EU leaders meet in Brussels. If a deal hasn’t been signed, expect preparations for Britain’s messy exit from the single market and customs union to figure prominently on the agenda.
Dec. 14-17: European Parliament meets
The European Parliament holds its final plenary session of the year, its last chance to approve any deal.
Dec. 31: End of transition period
If the two sides haven’t signed a trade deal by now, Britain will default to trading on World Trade Organization terms. Tariffs and quotas would be imposed, and customs checks would be reintroduced, spelling extra costs and disruption for millions of businesses and consumers.