BREXIT: Countdown to December 31st - More delays?
Brussels is piling the pressure on as the countdown to December 31st - the date by which a trade agreement between the UK and the EU must be agreed - gets underway, with the publication of a new document stressing any decision to extend the transition period must be taken by the 1st July.
The bloc is already gearing up for a summit in June which will be pivotal in deciding a way forward - with arrangements for the Irish border likely to top the agenda. Boris Johnson is keen to strike a deal by the end of the year which will draw a line under Brexit once and for all, as well as clearing the way to rubber-stamp other deals with third countries such as the United States.
Currently problems remain, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian giving a clear indication of the brutal nature of negotiations with his suggestion that the two sides will “rip each other apart” - and the directive, published by the European Commission earlier this month, likewise underlines what is at stake.
On February 25th, the European Council is scheduled to adopt the decision authorising the opening of talks.
Once this has happened, negotiations can get underway in earnest, with the first formal meeting likely to take place at the beginning of March.
The document explains: “The Commission intends to achieve as much as possible during the transition period.
“It is possible to extend the transition period by one to two years."
Crucially, however, the Commission, led by President Ursula von der Leyen, adds: “This decision must be taken jointly by the EU and the UK before July 1.
“If no decision has been taken by the Joint Committee before July 2020, there is no other legal basis for extending the transition beyond 2020.”