Britain has set a hard deadline of December 2020 for reaching a new trade deal with the EU. But the European Commission President said both sides needed to seriously think about whether this is enough time to negotiate a new trade deal and work out agreements about a series of other issues. Ms Von der Leyen told French daily newspaper Les Echos: “It would be reasonable to evaluate the situation mid-year and then, if necessary, agree on extending the transition period.”
In separate comments to German magazine Der Spiegel, Ms Von der Leyen added the UK’s departure deadline on December 31 “worries her a lot.”
She said: “That worries me a lot, because time is extremely short for the mass of issues that have to be negotiated.”
She said earlier this month that this timeframe is “extremely short” to discuss not only trade issues but also education, transport, fisheries and other issues.
Ms Von der Leyen told Der Spiegel that on security and defence: “Both sides are now striving for close cooperation.”
But Mr Johnson hit back that he will not back down by insisting the transition will end on at the end of December 2020.
He even made that pledge a legal requirement, according to the Mirror.
A UK government spokesman said on Friday: “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 in the Political Declaration and have agreed to work with great energy to achieve this.”
As the leader of the executive commission, Ms von der Leyen is in charge of the EU institution responsible for Brexit talks and negotiating trade deals on behalf of member countries.
Trade pacts like this usually take years to finalise.
And businesses are said to fear that the UK could face a new “no-deal” Brexit scenario at the start of 2021 if questions about whether tariff-free trade with the country’s biggest trading partner remain unanswered.
The EU is also reportedly planning to threaten to block the City of London’s access to European markets if Boris Johnson does not agree close alignment with the EU, according to The Times.
A diplomatic source told the newspaper EU negotiators would use the threat of restricting or limiting access to financial data as “leverage” during their talks.
Mr Johnson is also said to be looking to sign a “Canada-style” Free Trade Agreement with the EU, covering trade between the UK and all 27 EU nations.
If he is is unable to agree a deal within 11 months, the UK may leave with no deal.
The EU’s own trade deal with Canada took seven years.