Ursual von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, spoke of her fondness for the UK this afternoon, as she spoke to an audience at the London School of Economics – where she formerly studied. She spoke of her sadness that Britain will be leaving the bloc and said Brexit day, January 31, would be a “tough and emotional day”. But the EU chief issued a harrowing warning to Boris Johnson, as she said that 11 months is not enough time to reach a comprehensive trade agreement with the UK and suggested an extension to the Brexit transition period is required.
Speaking at the event, Ms von der Leyen said: “Without an extension of the transition period beyond 2020 you cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our partnership. We will have to prioritise.
“We are prepared to design a new partnership with zero tariffs, zero quotas, zero dumping – a partnership that goes well beyond trade and is unprecedented in scope.”
The Commission President also warned there would be “consequences” to leaving the EU and that the UK would have to accept compromise.
She said: “Our partnership cannot and will not be the same as before.
“It will not be as close as before because with every choice comes a consequence. With every decision, comes a trade-off.
“Without the free movement of people, you cannot have the free movement of capital, goods and services.
“Without a level playing field on environment, labour and state aid, you cannot have the highest quality access to the world’s largest single market.
“The more divergence there is, the more distant the partnership will be.”
Opposition parties have hit out at Mr Johnson for imposing an “unrealistic” deadline to strike a trade deal with the EU.
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that the hard deadline Boris Johnson has set for negotiating the future relationship between the EU and UK is unrealistic.
“Von der Leyen’s comments highlight that the Tory Government must be open to extending the transition period beyond the end of this year to ensure we do not leave with a half-baked deal or crash out without any deal at all.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas also asked Stephen Barclay, the secretary of state for exiting the European Union, why he wanted to “tie the Government’s hands” on the length of the transition period and “risk the disaster of no deal” at the end of the year.
The Labour party are pushing for a new clause to Brexit legislation, to avoid a no deal Brexit at the end of 2020.
Jeremy Corbyn tabled an amendment seeking a two-year extension to the implementation period if certain conditions are not met by mid-June.
Such talks for an extension would not be required if an agreement on the future trade relationship has been concluded or the Commons has passed a motion approving the government’s intention not to apply for an extension.