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European Commission president warns of ‘consequences’ of Brexit for UK

Ursula von der Leyen said the current 11-month timetable for negotiations was not enough time to finalise the ‘unprecedented’ deal the EU wanted.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent

Britain has been warned by the new European Commission president that it faces “consequences” if it does not align with Brussels’ rules after Brexit.

In a speech in London, President Ursula von der Leyen said the tight negotiating timetable would force the European Union to “prioritise” unless there was an extension beyond 2020.

The threat means Brussels could be entertaining only a skeleton free trade deal before the December 2020 deadline in order to avoid a no-deal situation.

Boris Johnson has said the UK will not follow EU rules after Brexit but Ms von der Leyen, who will be meeting with the Prime Minister in Downing Street on Wednesday, said that would create a “distant” relationship.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to meet the European Commission President on Wednesday (Aaron Chown/PA)

“Our partnership cannot and will not be the same as before,” she said in her speech at the London School of Economics, where she formerly studied.

“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.”

Without an extension of the transition period beyond 2020, you cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our new partnership Ursula von der Leyen

Ms von der Leyen said the EU was willing to sign off on a deal that was “unprecedented in scope” and that would go “well beyond trade”.

But she was blunt in her analysis that an 11-month negotiation period for such a deal was not possible.

“Without an extension of the transition period beyond 2020, you cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our new partnership,” she warned.

“We will have to prioritise.”

The German politician, who took over from Jean Claude-Juncker last month, said Britain’s January 31 exit day would be “tough and emotional”.

Looking to the future, she added: “But when the sun rises again on February 1, the United Kingdom and the European Union will still be the best of friends and partners.

“The bonds between us will still be unbreakable.”

PA

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