EU BID TO DELAY TRADE TALKS
Fury as Brussels seeks to hinder PM’s Brexit drive
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.”
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
EC chief Ursula von der Leyen has warned that Brexit timeframe is ‘extremely short’
‘Delay bid’...Nigel Farage