EU: 'IMPOSSIBLE' to strike full post-Brexit trade deal by end of 2020

EU says it is ‘IMPOSSIBLE’ to strike a full post-Brexit trade deal with the UK by the end of 2020 as Brussels tells Boris Johnson it is ‘unwise’ to set a firm deadline on the negotiations

  • UK will leave EU on January 31 and then enter into a standstill transition period
  • Two sides will use transition period to hammer out terms of future partnership
  • Transition period ends December 2020 and Boris Johnson ruled out extension
  • But EU trade chief Phil Hogan said it is ‘just not possible’ to finish by end of year

The European Union’s trade chief today warned it will be impossible for the bloc and Britain to hammer out all of the details of their post-Brexit relationship by the end of 2020.

Phil Hogan, the EU’s trade commissioner, said it was ‘just not possible’ to finalise a comprehensive trade deal by December as he put Brussels on a collision course with Boris Johnson. 

The UK will leave the EU on January 31 and will then enter into a standstill transition period when trade talks will take place. 

That transition period is due to expire at the end of December and Mr Johnson is adamant that he will not agree to an extension. 

But Mr Hogan suggested it was ‘unwise’ to stick so rigidly to the deadline as he said doing so would likely mean the UK and EU parting ways with some issues still to be resolved.

Phil Hogan, the European Commissioner for Trade, said today it was ‘just not possible’ to finish post-Brexit talks with the UK by the end of 2020

The terms of the Brexit divorce deal agreed by Mr Johnson with Brussels last year dictate that the transition period can be extended by up to two years if both sides agree.  

A decision on extension must be taken by the middle of this year but while the EU is open to pushing back the deadline, Mr Johnson has refused to countenance such a move. 

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, met Mr Johnson for talks last week and concluded the UK’s desire to treat the end of 2020 as a hard deadline meant both sides will have to prioritise some issues over others. 

Mr Hogan said today that negotiators were ‘certainly’ not going to be able to tie up everything on the future relationship between the bloc and the UK in the current time frame.  

He said: ‘Certainly by the end of the year we are not going to get everything that’s in the 36-page document on the future relationship agreed because Prime Minister Johnson decided we are going to have everything concluded by the end of the year.

‘It’s just not possible. Especially if we have to make a decision about the transition by July 1.’  

Mr Hogan, a former Irish minister and an ally of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, said the EU was ‘open to suggestions’ on how best to manage the talks. 

But he said the ‘wisest thing’ to do would be to avoid setting firm deadlines. 

Mr Hogan’s comments put the EU on a collision course with Boris Johnson, pictured in Downing Street yesterday, with the PM adamant that he will not agree to the Brexit transition period being extended beyond the end of 2020

Mr Hogan said: ‘I think we’ve seen that putting ourselves into timelines in the last few years have not been that helpful, especially in the way it played out in the House of Commons.’

That comment is likely to prompt anger in Number 10 given that both the EU and UK agreed to the terms of the transition period in the divorce accord. 

Mr Hogan made the comments to former EU trade commissioner Lord Mandelson at an event at the RSA in central London, where he was appearing on a video-link from Washington DC.

In the US, Mr Hogan has been discussing transatlantic trade with president Donald Trump’s representatives. 

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