The Commission President said the bloc will do its best to seal an agreement on new ties with Britain by the end of the year but will not compromise its core values, notably on fair competition.
“The negotiations with the UK always promised to be difficult and they have not disappointed,” von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, told the European Parliament.
“We are now halfway through these negotiations with five months left to go. But we’re definitely not halfway through the work to reach an agreement … We will do all in our power to reach an agreement.”
She said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had confirmed to her this week that London would not seek to prolong negotiations on a new EU-UK trade deal beyond December.
The EU says Britain cannot retain all the economic and trading benefits it had as an EU member, while London says Brussels is not showing enough flexibility.
Von der Leyen, said that there will be no post-Brexit deal without a level playing field
Barnier said EU-UK talks will intensify in coming months
“We’re ready to be creative to find common ground,” von der Leyen said.
However, she went on to say said there could be no deal without “level playing field” guarantees of fair competition, and agreements on fisheries and on dispute-settling mechanisms.
The EU insists that Britain must commit to maintaining EU standards on a whole host of issues.
This includes everything from state aid to labour to environment regulations.
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Ursula Von der Leyen said the EU will not compromise its core values, notably on fair competition
The measures are to prevent it undercutting EU products in the future.
“It should be a shared interest for the European Union and the UK to never slide backwards and always advance together towards highest standards,” von der Leyen said.
She also said Britain must offer legal guarantees that it would handle sensitive data on EU citizens correctly if it wanted access to the bloc’s databases or close judicial and police cooperation.
Any deal sealed between the 27 EU states and Britain will eventually need ratification by the European Parliament.
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Von der Leyen said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had confirmed to her this week that London would not seek to prolong negotiations on a new EU-UK trade deal beyond December
The EU says Britain cannot retain all the economic and trading benefits it had as an EU member
Some lawmakers called for preparations in case the talks fail.
“It’s going to be difficult. It’s possible but the time is very short,” the bloc’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told the same hearing.
“It’s the choice of the UK whether they want an agreement, or not, because the conditions for an agreement are already known.”
Barnier said EU-UK talks will intensify in coming months.
Talks are expected to go on throughout July, August and September.
Both sides now hope a series of intensified negotiations over the summer will bring along an “early understanding on the principles underlying any agreement”.
They will then turn “political understandings” into draft legal text as talks rumble on into the autumn.
Speaking after the virtual talks, Mr Johnson said: “It’s very clear what we need to achieve, I don’t think we’re actually that far apart, but what we need now is to see a bit of oomph in the negotiations.
Talks are expected to go on throughout July, August and September
“The faster we can do this the better, we see no reason why you shouldn’t get that done in July.
“The issue is very clear, we fought an election based on these ideas, the manifesto was very clear.”
Barnier also called for a deal to cover not only trade but also security, environmental standards and welfare rights, saying: “Our priority is and remains to be to reach an agreement.
“But we also have the responsibility to prepare for all possible scenarios, whether there is an agreement or there isn’t.”