European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: Shutterstock
The European Union's top official said Wednesday the bloc was ready to work "day and night" to reach a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain by the year-end deadline.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, on a visit to Ireland, said that formal talks would begin at the end of February or early March and simultaneously cover a range of issues.
"We are in a very good spirit to go as fast possible, to work as hard as possible day and night to move forward quickly," she said before heading into talks with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
"We will go in parallel. It's not only trade. A lot of topics need to be (covered)," she added.
Von der Leyen warned in London last week that it was "basically impossible" to get a comprehensive free trade agreement negotiated in less than a year.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has until July 1 to ask for more time but has vowed not to prolong a process that began when Britons backed Brexit in a June 2016 referendum.
The first big clash will revolve around the sequence in which the various issues are discussed after Brexit day on January 31.
The EU primarily exports goods to Britain and imports UK services. Both sides would like their concerns addressed first in the limited timeframe.
Von der Leyen said negotiators would only really have eight months because an agreement takes time to be ratified by all 28 countries.
The talks formally begin after a period of consultations in Brussels and the approval of an EU negotiating mandate.
The overarching theme of the talks will be how closely Britain remains aligned to EU rules and regulations after Brexit.
Von der Leyen insists that Britain cannot expect preferential trade terms without accepting "a level playing field".
Britain would like to set its own rules after Brexit that give it more leeway to strike trade agreements with the United States and other economic powers.
Brussels will keep the interests of EU member Ireland closely in mind because of its border with Britain and heavy dependence on the UK market.
Ireland "will be absolutely on team EU in these negotiations," said Varadkar. "Getting that agreement is crucial for businesses, for jobs for exports and for the agri-food sector.
Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.
As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.
Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.