By JILL LAWLESS and RAF CASERT
LONDON (AP) — The European Commission’s president warned Britain on Wednesday that it won’t get the “highest quality access” to the European Union’s market after Brexit unless it makes major compromises.
Ursula von der Leyen said negotiating a new U.K.-EU trade deal will be tough, and that “with every choice comes a consequence.”
Britain is due to leave the EU on Jan. 31 and begin an 11-month transition period while the two sides negotiate a new economic relationship. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the U.K. is seeking a free trade deal, but doesn’t want to agree to keep EU rules and standards.
Britain wants to be free to diverge from EU rules and standards in order to strike new trade deals around the world. Downing St. said that when Johnson meets von der Leyen later Wednesday, he “will likely underline that the upcoming negotiations will be based on an ambitious FTA (free trade agreement), not on alignment.”
That could cause problems. Speaking in London before her meeting with Johnson, von der Leyen warned that “without a level playing field on environment, labor, taxation and state aid, you cannot have the highest quality access to the world’s largest single market.”
Von der Leyen is due to visit Johnson at 10 Downing Street later Wednesday for the first time since the British leader’s election victory last month.
Johnson’s Conservatives won a substantial parliamentary majority, giving him the power to end more than three years of wrangling and take the U.K. out of the EU on Jan. 31.
Britain’s departure will be followed by a transition period in which the U.K.-EU relationship will remain largely unchanged while the two sides negotiate a new trade arrangement.
EU officials say it will be hard to strike a new deal in just 11 months. But Johnson’s office said Wednesday that “both British and EU citizens rightly expect negotiations on an ambitious free trade agreement to conclude on time.”
The European Commission president cautioned that “you cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our new partnership” by the end of 2020. Johnson insists he will not extend the transition period beyond Dec. 31.
But, von der Leyen said, “we are ready to work day and night to get as much of this done within the time frame we have.”
Raf Casert reported from Brussels.
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