BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg highlighted a major flaw in arguments from top EU figures suggesting 11 months is not enough time for Boris Johnson to set up a new trade agreement with the UK. Ms Kuenssberg pointed out Brussels agreed to sign up to a deal by December 2020 as part of the political declaration setting out the criteria of the future commercial relationship member states will have with Britain after Brexit.
Ms Kuenssberg told BBC podcast Brexitcast: “But It wouldn’t have gone without notice in Westminster that the EU side keep on criticising the timetable.
“But they also signed up to it – it’s their deadline, too.”
The political declaration is a framework of the future relationship the UK and the EU will have at the end of the transition period in December 2020. The document, to which both Boris Johnson and EU leaders agreed to alongside the new withdrawal deal, is not legally binding.
The declaration states: “In setting out the framework of the future relationship between the Union and the United Kingdom, this declaration confirms (…) that it is the clear intent of both Parties to develop in good faith agreements giving effect to this relationship and to begin the formal process of negotiations as soon as possible after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union, such that they can come into force by the end of 2020.”
The former Irish minister added: “How we manage this politically between the UK and the EU, we’re certainly open to suggestions, but I think the wisest thing to do is that we should no pencil ourselves into timelines again.
“We have seen that putting ourselves in timelines over the last three years has not been that helpful, especially the way it’s played ut in the House of Commons.”
Guy Verhofstadt on Friday warned it would be “very difficult” to secure a “broad free trade agreement” if Britain does not sign up to honouring EU rules on standards.
The Belgian MEP was asked about the prospects of a trade deal being struck between the UK and EU in the forthcoming negotiations.
He said: “I think both sides have an interest to be very ambitious. But how far this will go is very difficult to say because it will depend on what the willingness is of the UK side to also comply with a number of standards in the European Union.
“We are always saying ‘No tariffs? OK. No quotas? OK.’
“But also – no dumping. That can be state aid, that can be ecological standards, social standards.”