Boris Johnson set for first meeting with new European Commission president
Newly re-elected prime minister Boris Johnson is to meet with Ursula von der Leyen, the new president of the European Commission, at Downing Street.
Johnson will use the meeting to emphasise the importance of a trade deal being agreed between the UK and EU by the transitional period cut-off point of December 31, 2020.
Talks will commence on the UK’s future relationship with the bloc after the nation departs the EU on January 31 and the 11-month transition period commences. During this time, the UK will continue to follow EU rules but be excluded from its institutions.
Johnson has been staunch on his policy of not extending the transitional period and insisted that a comprehensive free-trade deal to replace continued regulatory alignment can be agreed by the end of the year.
However, von der Leyen has previously indicated that it would be an “extremely challenging” window to strike the sort of ambitious, tariff-free trade deal that the UK government is expected to pursue.
Should a trade deal not be in place by the deadline, the UK would fall back on World Trade Organisation terms heading into 2021.
Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay told the BBC that the political declaration accompanying the revised Withdrawal Agreement contained an agreement that a trade deal would be completed by the end of 2020, and echoed Johnson’s confidence that it will be delivered on time.
Barclay said: "Of course there will be planning within Whitehall for any eventuality, but we aim to get a trade deal.
"Both sides are clear they want a trade deal, the political declaration says it can be done to that timetable, let's be positive.”
Meanwhile, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed through three votes in the House of Commons on Tuesday, which will write into law the terms of the transition period and UK-EU agreements on issues such as citizens’ rights and future customs arrangements in Northern Ireland.
Issues relating more closely to Northern Ireland will be discussed in Parliament on Wednesday, with the DUP, SDLP and Alliance pursuing an amendment to legally guarantee “unfettered access” to the wider UK for Northern Irish businesses in the wake of new customs rules.