EU commissioner tells Boris Johnson trade deal ‘just not possible’ by end of 2020
Agreeing a free trade deal between the UK and Brussels by the end of 2020 is "just not possible", according to a senior EU official.
Phil Hogan, the EU's trade commissioner, said the two sides were "certainly" not going to be able to meet Boris Johnson’s ambition of having a comprehensive agreement in place by the deadline of 31 December.
And he warned the UK not to engage in “brinkmanship” during the second phase of talks, saying those tactics “are not going to work on this occasion”.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly said the UK will not ask the EU for an extension to the post-Brexit transition period, which runs out at the end of 2020.
The Prime Minister reinforced the point during face-to-face talks with new European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in Downing Street last week.
But Mr Hogan said Ms von der Leyen came away from the summit thinking "we have to prioritise" on aspects of the agreement, rather than try and get a full deal within 12 months.
Speaking to former Labour Cabinet minister Lord Mandelson at an event in London, 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."
The commissioner added that the EU was "certainly open to suggestions" on how to manage the situation politically, but the "wisest thing" would be to not set deadlines.
He added: “We need to wake up to this reality that gamesmanship and brinkmanship are not going to work on this occasion.
“If you want to do a deal together I wish you well, but I’m hearing messages from the various players in this town that it won’t be as easy as the United Kingdom and the United States think, certainly it won’t be as easy as the United Kingdom thinks for the United Kingdom to strike a deal that actually meets the objectives of the administration here.”
In response a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said: “The Political Declaration is an agreement by us and the EU to meet that timescale.
"The Prime Minister has been clear on this throughout, there will be no extension to that.”