European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen questioned whether it would be possible to strike a trade deal with the U.K before the end of the Brexit transition period.
In an interview with Les Echos, von der Leyen said she is “very worried” about the limited time to negotiate a trade deal with the U.K.
“It seems to me that on both sides we should seriously ask ourselves if all these negotiations are possible in such a short time. I think it would be reasonable to take stock mid-year and, if necessary, to agree on an extension of the transition period,” she said.
The U.K. is hoping for an EU trade deal to be agreed during its transition period, which is set to run from the start of February until the end of 2020, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he will not extend negotiations beyond that date.
Von der Leyen added that countries that want to access the EU single market “must accept its common principles and values,” or else face barriers.
The head of the European Parliament David Sassoli echoed these views in an interview with the Berliner Morgenpost also published Friday: “It is clear that the advantages of EU membership cannot be obtained from outside. Nor will we allow an arrangement in which Great Britain has full access to the internal market, but at the same time could undermine the high social, labor law and ecological standards,” he said.
Before trade negotiations can start, both the U.K. and European parliaments must first pass the Withdrawal Agreement that would see Britain leave the bloc on January 31.
Sassoli said that if the Withdrawal Agreement gets the green light from the U.K. parliament it is unlikely to face opposition in its EU counterpart.