Brexit update: the president of the European Commission outlines the EU’s priorities for the future EU-UK relation

14 JANUARY 2020

On Wednesday 8 January, Ursula von der Leyen gave a speech about the future EU-UK relation in the context of her first visit to the UK as president of the European Commission. Please read the speech here

Main take-away of her speech:

  • Brexit will take place on 31st January 2020, but in application of the Withdrawal Agreement, a transition (i.e. status quo) will apply until 31st December 2020. Unless this transition is extended, the new “cliff edge” could happen on 31st December 2020. Indeed, in 11-month period it’s highly impossible to negotiate and ratify a full future-relationship deal. Hence, to avoid a “cliff-edge”, the negotiating teams will have to prioritize. The priorities of the EU are the “the integrity of the EU, its single market and its Customs Union”. The ambition of the EU will be to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with “zero tariffs, zero quotas, and zero dumping”
  • The access to the EU’s market will depend on the level playing field agreed with the UK: without a level playing field on environment, labour, taxation and state aid, the UK will not have the highest quality access to the EU’s single market.
  • The UK will be a third country to the EU, the more divergence there is between the EU and the UK, the more distant the partnership has to be. Furthermore, the UK will be out of the EU decision making process. In other words, “nothing will be as it was before”.

Time will be short for the negotiations. On 1st February will be the first day of the UK as a third country. However, negotiations won’t formally start until end-February at the earliest as the Commission and M. Barnier need a negotiating mandate from Member States. Furthermore, negotiations will have to end by November as the ratification should take a few weeks.

Contact: Daniel Pérez Vega,