LONDON (Reuters) – It will be “basically impossible” to negotiate all aspects of the future relationship between the European Union and Britain by the end of this year, the head of the European Commission said on Wednesday, adding that both sides must pick priorities.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen holds a news conference after a college meeting of the EU executive to discuss Iran crisis, in Brussels, Belgium January 8, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
Speaking at the London School of Economics before a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Ursula von der Leyen cast doubt on his timetable for an agreement defining the long-term post-Brexit relationship by the end of 2020.
“The transition time is very, very tight … so it is basically impossible to negotiate all that I have been mentioning, so we will have to prioritise,” she said.
Johnson is expected to tell the new EU commission head – a pivotal figure in the upcoming negotiations – that Britain will not extend the transition period, and will not seek a deal based on close alignment with EU rules.
Von der Leyen said the first topics that would need to be addressed were the areas where there were no international trade treaties to fall back on.
“It is not an all or nothing thing, but it is a question of priorities,” von der Leyen said, adding that there could be no compromise on the EU priority to uphold the integrity of the bloc’s single market and its customs union.
She suggested that progress in the talks should be reviewed in the middle of the year, “or before summer” ideally, wi