The EU bloc is already gearing up for a summit in June that will be pivotal in deciding a way forward – with agreements to the Irish boundary going to top the agenda. Boris Johnson is eager to strike a deal by the end of the year that will draw a line under Brexit once and for all, as well as clearing the way to rubber-stamp different deals with third countries such as the United States.
Mr Johnson is opposed to expanding the transition period because it might postpone the ability to strike deals of the UK.
However, issues remain, together with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian giving a clear sign of the brutal character of discussions with his suggestion that the two sides will”rip each other apart” – along with the directive, published by the European Commission earlier this season, similarly underlines what is at stake.
On February 25, the European Council is scheduled to adopt the decision.
After this has happened, discussions can get underway with the formal meeting, in earnest.
The EU document explains:”The Commission plans to get as much done as possible during the transition period.
“We are prepared to work 24/7 to make the best out of the discussions.”
“It’s possible to prolong the transition period by one or two years.”
“If no decision was accepted from the Joint Committee before July 2020, there’s no other legal basis for extending the transition past 2020.”
“Regardless of whether a future trade deal will be set up, all businesses will need to prepare now for the close of the transition period, as the UK will no longer be in the Single Market or the Customs Union.”
With such a possibility in mind, there is a crunch conference scheduled prior to any conclusion about extending the transition for June.
The Commission describes:”The High-Level Conference in June, as foreseen by the Withdrawal Agreement, aims to take stock of the progress in negotiations.
“The Commission will also use the Conference to take inventory of the state of execution of the Withdrawal Agreement, specifically when it comes to taxpayers’ rights and the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.”
Yesterday, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Mr Le Drian said Brussels would be ruthless in talks with the United Kingdom.
He said:”I presume that on trade issues and the mechanism for future relations, which we’re likely to start on, we are going to rip each other apart.
“But this is part of discussions, everyone will defend their interests.”
Chief negotiator Michel Barnier and ms von der Leyen have voiced their doubts about the feasibility of Mr Johnson’s strategy to reach a comprehensive agreement by the year’s end.
“And without an expansion of the transition period beyond 2020, you cannot expect to agree on every single component of the new partnership. We’ll have to prioritise.”