EU must focus on avoiding cliff-edge in Brexit talks – senior EU official

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union will have to limit talks on its future relationship with the United Kingdom to avoiding another cliff-edge, a senior EU official said on Tuesday, after Britain confirmed it would definitely leave the bloc by the end of 2020.

Small toy figure is seen in front of UK and European Union displayed flags in this illustration picture, October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

After his big election win, Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to outlaw any extension of a planned Brexit transition period beyond 2020 and use the prospect of a cliff-edge to demand a comprehensive free trade deal in less than 11 months.

“Given all the signals… we are well advised to take seriously that the UK does not intend to go for an extension of the transition and we need to be prepared for that,” said Sabine Weyand, director-general of the EU’s trade department.

“That means in the negotiations we have to look at those issues where failing to reach an agreement by 2020 would lead to another cliff-edge situation,” she told a European Policy Centre think tank seminar.

Weyand said the European Commission, which coordinates trade policy for EU countries, was ready to start negotiations very quickly after Britain formally left the EU on Jan. 31 and was very clear about its priorities.

Any duty-free, quota-free deal would need to be accompanied with guarantees of a level playing field in areas such as state aid and competition, environmental and labour law and taxation.

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