EU BID TO DE­LAY TRADE TALKS

Fury as Brus­sels seeks to hin­der PM’s Brexit drive

Daily Express - - Front Page - By Macer Hall Po­lit­i­cal Editor

BRUS­SELS’ top bu­reau­crat ig­nited a fresh Brexit row last night by threat­en­ing to try to ex­tend the UK’s tran­si­tion out of EU reg­u­la­tions.

In an open­ing salvo ahead of next year’s trade talks, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Ur­sula von der Leyen ques­tioned whether a cross-chan­nel deal could be con­cluded by the cur­rent dead­line of next De­cem­ber.

She sug­gested both sides should dis­cuss ex­tend­ing the tran­si­tion, when the UK will re­main tied to EU rules de­spite be­ing for­mally out­side the bloc, should the talks fail to make sig­nif­i­cant progress by the sum­mer.

And in a fur­ther in­di­ca­tion that the EU is dig­ging in for a gru­elling wran­gle over its fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with the UK, Brus­sels sources yes­ter­day in­di­cated that the City of Lon­don could be shut out of Euro­pean fi­nan­cial mar­kets.

Boris John­son’s of­fi­cials flatly re­jected her sug­ges­tion of a longer Brexit tran­si­tion. Ms von der Leyen’s provoca­tive in­ter­ven­tion

came in an in­ter­view with French news­pa­per Les Echos yes­ter­day.

The EC chief, who suc­ceeded JeanClaude Juncker last au­tumn, said both the Euro­pean Union and the Gov­ern­ment needed to think se­ri­ously about whether there was enough time to ne­go­ti­ate a post-Brexit trade deal and agree a se­ries of other is­sues by De­cem­ber 31, 2020.

She pre­vi­ously de­scribed the time­frame, agreed by both sides in a po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion, as “ex­tremely short”.

“It would be rea­son­able to eval­u­ate the sit­u­a­tion mid-year and then, if nec­es­sary, agree on ex­tend­ing the tran­si­tion pe­riod,” said Ms von der Leyen.

A Down­ing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Min­is­ter has been clear that we will not be ex­tend­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion pe­riod.

“Both the EU and the UK com­mit­ted to agree­ing a fu­ture part­ner­ship by the end of 2020 and have agreed to work with great en­ergy to achieve this.”

Tough

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said: “The EU’s un­elected leader is al­ready push­ing for another Brexit ex­ten­sion.

“Boris must be tough with th­ese bu­reau­crats as they will try to ob­struct our ev­ery move. A clean break must be put back on the ta­ble.”

Un­der plans due to be rub­ber­stamped by Par­lia­ment next month, the UK will quit the EU at 11pm on Jan­uary 31. The coun­try will then en­ter an 11-month im­ple­men­ta­tion pe­riod, where most EU rules, in­clud­ing free move­ment for the bloc’s cit­i­zens, will re­main in force.

Mean­while, EU and UK ne­go­ti­at­ing teams will try to thrash out a trade deal set­ting out their fu­ture re­la­tion­ship.

Mr John­son has re­peat­edly in­sisted the tran­si­tion pe­riod will ex­pire at the end of De­cem­ber next year and in­tends to en­shrine the dead­line in law in a re­vamped EU With­drawal Agree­ment Bill cur­rently pass­ing through Par­lia­ment.

The leg­is­la­tion was backed over­whelm­ingly by MPs with a 110-vote mar­gin, in a his­toric Com­mons divi­sion just be­fore Par­lia­ment went into re­cess. In­tro­duc­ing the Bill in the Com­mons ear­lier this month, the Prime Min­is­ter said: “The Bill en­sures that the im­ple­men­ta­tion pe­riod must end on the 31st of De­cem­ber next year – with no pos­si­bil­ity of an ex­ten­sion. “And it paves the way for a new agree­ment on our fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with our Euro­pean neigh­bours, based on an am­bi­tious free trade agree­ment, with no align­ment on EU rules, but in­stead con­trol of our own laws, and close and friendly re­la­tions.”

Down­ing Street aides insist it is in the in­ter­ests of the UK and the EU to agree a fu­ture part­ner­ship that keeps goods flow­ing, main­tains ac­cess to both mar­kets for ser­vices and al­lows busi­ness to con­tinue.

But Brus­sels sources be­gan hint­ing yes­ter­day that the City of Lon­don’s ac­cess to Euro­pean fi­nan­cial mar­kets will be a key is­sue in the trade talks.

They also warned the EU could put up bar­ri­ers to data flows vi­tal to

Pic­tures: REUTERS, PA

EC chief Ur­sula von der Leyen has warned that Brexit time­frame is ‘ex­tremely short’

‘De­lay bid’...Nigel Farage

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