Brexit delay climbdown: EU finally admits it has to do a deal with UK in 12 months

The EU is now working on the assumption the so-called Brexit transition period after Brexit will terminate at the end in 11 months. A senior official said Boris Johnson’s repeated efforts to rule out an extension to the transition period and Brexit itself has forced the EU into surrender. The bureaucrat, who did not want to be named, said: “We can assume at this point that the transition period will end on December 31, 2020.”

The source did however reiterate that if there were ever to be an extension the UK would have to keep paying the membership fee to the EU, which is around £1.2billion monthly.

They said an agreement to extend the transition period “presupposes an agreement on continued financial participation and contribution from the UK to the EU”.

Brussels has previously indicated it was unlikely to agree a trade deal before the December deadline and would likely extend the transition period.

Ireland’s Simon Coveney said it is “probably going to take longer than a year”, while Ursula von der Leyen said it may not be feasible” to do a deal by the end of 2020.

It comes after EU bosses have signed the Brexit withdrawal treaty confirming the United Kingdom’s departure from the bloc.

Mrs von der Leyen and the Council’s Charles Michel put their signature to Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal at a sombre ceremony today in Brussels.

A copy will now be sent to Downing Street to allow the Prime Minister to complete the process ahead of its ratification in the EU Parliament next week.

Writing on Twitter, European Commission President Mrs von der Leyen said: “Charles Michel and I have just signed the Agreement on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU, opening the way for its ratification by the European Parliament.”

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EU Council chief Mr Michel added: “Things will inevitably change but our friendship will remain. We start a new chapter as partners and allies.”

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, also attended the event in the bloc’s Justus Lipsius building.

The EU’s presidents flew back from Israel, where they had been attending events to commemorate the Holocaust.

The 600-page withdrawal agreement will now be transported to the Prime Minister in London to complete the process.

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MEPs in the EU Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee recommended their colleagues back the deal in an institutional vote next week.

Just hours before the document was signed this morning, Brexit was enshrined in UK law when the Queen granted Royal Assent to Mr Johnson’s deal with Brussels.

In a possible sign of looming celebrations, several cases of English sparkling wine were delivered to Downing Street yesterday.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “It has been a long three years but we have got Brexit over the line and the PM wants to move the whole country forward as one to a brighter future.”

Once Mr Johnson has added his signature to the withdrawal agreement, it will be transported back to Brussels where it will be stored in the bloc’s official archive.

The UK is now set for a smooth exit from the bloc on January 31, some nine months after the original departure date.

Britain will enter into the so-called Brexit transition period, under which the country will continue to follow the EU’s rulebook until December.

This can be extended up until 2022 but Mr Johnson has warned that he is not willing to keep the country in limbo and will instead seek a trade deal with the bloc by the end of the year.

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