EU may need to extend deadline for trade talks with UK – von der Leyen

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech during a debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, December 18, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

PARIS (Reuters) – The European Union may need to extend the deadline for talks about a new trade relationship with Britain, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told French daily Les Echos in an interview published on Friday.

Von der Leyen said both sides needed to seriously think about whether there is enough time to negotiate a new trade deal and work out agreements about a series of other issues.

“It would be reasonable to evaluate the situation mid-year and then, if necessary, agree on extending the transition period,” she told the paper.

Britain has set a hard deadline of December 2020 for reaching a new trade deal with the EU, betting that the prospect of another Brexit cliff-edge would force Brussels to move quickly to seal an accord.

But von der Leyen said earlier this month that this timeframe is “extremely short” to discuss not only trade issues but also education, transport, fisheries and other issues.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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