UK Politics: Johnson warned EU 'won't be rushed' into post-Brexit trade deal

Brexit will be followed by an 11-month transition period
The UK is set to leave the EU on January 31 2020
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Boris Johnson has been told that the EU won't be pressured into finalising a post-Brexit trade agreement with the UK by the end of this year. Tradefair brings you the latest from UK politics...

The EU will not be rushed on this just because Britain passes laws."

- Ireland's deputy PM Simon Coveney

Ireland's deputy prime minister, Simon Coveney, has warned the UK that the EU "will not be rushed" into a trade deal after Brexit, regardless of any deadlines Boris Johnson has set for finalising ongoing arrangements between London and Brussels.

The UK is due to leave the EU on January 31 2020, after MPs gave final backing to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, the law implementing the government's Brexit deal. The country will then enter an 11-month transition period, during which it will largely follow EU rules while negotiating a permanent post-Brexit trade agreement.

Johnson included a pledge in his Brexit bill not to extend this transition period beyond December 31 2020, but the tight timeframe has raised eyebrows in the EU.

'Very ambitious'

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Coveney was keen to stress that the future relationship between the UK and the EU is about more than just trade. He pointed out that aviation, data management, fishing and "many other things" also need to be addressed during the transition period.

Ireland's deputy PM described the timetable Johnson had outlined to negotiate ongoing arrangements between London and Brussels as "very ambitious", adding that the UK prime minister had "even put it into British law".

But he emphasised that legislation passed in Westminster doesn't apply to the other 27 countries that make up the EU.

"The European Union will approach this on the basis of getting the best deal possible, a fair and balanced deal to ensure that the UK and the EU can interact as friends in the future," Coveney said. "But the EU will not be rushed on this just because Britain passes laws."

The deputy leader also insisted there is "no way" London and Brussels can maintain the same relationship after the UK leaves the European bloc, adding: "That is the reality of Brexit, I'm afraid."

Speaking on the same programme, UK security minister Brandon Lewis insisted that reaching a comprehensive post-Brexit agreement by the end of 2020 is an achievable aim.

He said Johnson has "a strong record of getting things done" and overcame doubters last year when he reached a new withdrawal agreement with Brussels after being elected prime minister.

'Impossible'

Last week saw the first face-to-face talks between Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, the new president of the European Commission.

A Downing Street spokesman said that while the meeting was positive, the prime minister had made it clear the post-Brexit transition period couldn't be extended beyond December 31 2020.

Johnson reportedly told Von der Leyen that he wanted "a positive new UK and EU partnership, based on friendly cooperation, our shared history, interests and values", as well as a "broad free trade agreement covering goods and services".

However, the newly elected European Commission president said it would be "basically impossible" to reach mutually acceptable terms on all elements of the two sides' future relationship by the end of the year.

She noted that, if the deadline the UK government is insisting on can't be extended, the negotiation process could come down to setting priorities, rather than taking an "all or nothing" approach.

Von der Leyen also echoed Coveney's words when she said the UK and the EU will remain "the best of friends and partners" after Brexit, but will "not be as close as before".

Businesses and investors will be keeping a close eye on the talks between London and Brussels over the course of the year.

The FTSE 100 ended last week on a fairly strong footing, rising by 0.33% between the close of trading on Wednesday - the day of Von der Leyen's visit to the UK - and Friday afternoon.

This positive trend continued on Monday January 13, with the London benchmark gaining up to 0.5% in morning trading.

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