The UK is due to leave the EU on January 31 but will enter a transition period until the end of the year to allow time to strike a free trade deal. The Prime Minister has insisted he will not push back the December 2020 deadline despite the European Commission President warning it would be “impossible” to reach a comprehensive agreement by then.
Victoria Hewson, head of regulatory affairs at the Institute for Economic Affairs, said that while agreeing a deal in the 11-month period would be a “huge challenge” it would “help to focus minds” and questioned why the EU would sign up to an “impossible” deadline.
She said: “The timeframe is certainly a huge challenge, both technically and politically.
“However, as we saw through the course of the Article 50 negotiations, the pressure of a strict deadline does help to focus minds.
“Of course, if the EU now consider it to be ‘impossible’, as the European Commission President has suggested, why then did they commit to work to this deadline in the first place?”
In an appearance on BBC Breakfast this week, Mr Johnson said it was “epically likely” that the UK would strike a comprehensive trade deal with the EU by the end of 2020.
He said: “Obviously you always have to budget for a complete failure of common sense, that goes without saying, but I’m very, very, very confident that we’ll get a (deal).
“This is not about a deal, this is about building a great new partnership.
“And from January 31, what we’re going to do is start working with our friends and partners around the world – not just with the EU.
“We’re going to start building new relationships with friends and partners around the world.”
It comes after Ireland’s deputy premier Simon Coveney warned the EU would not be rushed into a deal.
He highlighted that as well as trade, the agreement included areas like aviation, fishing and data.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “When people talk about the future relationship, in the UK in particular, they seem to only talk about a future trade agreement, actually there’s much more to this than that – there’s fishing, there’s aviation, there’s data and so many other things.
“I know that Prime Minister Johnson has set a very ambitious timetable to get this done.
“He has even put it into British law, but just because a British parliament decides that British laws say something doesn’t mean that that law applies to the other 27 countries of the European Union and so the European Union will approach this on the basis of getting the best deal possible – a fair and balanced deal to ensure the EU and the UK can interact as friends in the future.
“But the EU will not be rushed on this just because Britain passes law.”
Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal cleared the Commons earlier this month, paving the way for the UK to leave the EU on January 31.