Ursula von der Leyen vows EU will take on Brexit Britain ‘WE’RE excellent too’

3 min

12 shares, 82 points

The European Commission President said trade negotiations are not yet “half way” towards an agreement despite the Prime Minister hoping to rubber-stamp the pact in July. Speaking in the European Parliament, she said: “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, little time ahead of us.”

We will do everything in our power to reach an agreement,” she told MEPs.

“We will be constructive, as we’ve always been, and we’re ready to be creative to find common ground with it, even where there seems to be none.”

She said the bloc would not back down in its demand for a regulatory level-playing field as the price for any deal.

But in a challenge to Britain, she said EU firms would maintain their high standards.

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Ursula von der Leyen in the EU Parliament (Image: GETTY)

She said: “The fundamental issue at stake here is fair competition ready and willing to compete with British firms they’re excellent and our firms are excellent too.

“But it cannot be a downward competition, just think of labour standards or environmental protection.

“It should be a shared interest for the European Union and the UK to never slide backwards and always advanced together towards higher standards.”

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Ursula von der Leyen is the EU Commission’s President (Image: EbS)

Mrs von der Leyen hinted at a climbdown from the bloc’s hardline fishing demand to retain the same level of access to Britain’s fishing waters for European boats.

She said she now recognises the UK will become an independent coastal state after the transition period ends.

“There is no question. No one questions the UK’s sovereignty over its own waters, without any questions,” she said.

“But we ask for predicability and guarantees for fishermen who have been sailing in those waters for decades.

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Michel Barnier is the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator (Image: EbS)

The German said the bloc would not back down in its fight to have an all-encompassing future relationship with Britain.

Instead the Government has asked for smaller individual agreements to cover trade, fisheries, aviation and security cooperation.

Mrs von der Leyen said: “Governance may sound like an issue for bureaucrats, but it’s not.

“It central to both our businesses and private citizens in the UK and in the European Union.

“It is crucial to ensure that what has been agreed is actually done.”

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Meanwhile Germany has warned trade talks with Britain are likely to well into October before a deal is found.

An internal document by its Foreign Office revealed that Angela Merkel doesn’t believe an agreement will be found next month, like suggested by Boris Johnson.

“From September, the negotiations enter a hot phase,” the document, obtained by Reuters, said.

“Britain is already escalating threats in Brussels, wants to settle as much as possible in the shortest possible time and hopes to achieve last-minute success in the negotiations.”

The German Foreign Office confirmed that no deal planning should be increased because of Britain’s refusal to extend the post-Brexit transition period beyond the end of the year.

The document added: “It is therefore important to preserve the unity of the 27, to continue to insist of parallel progress i all areas and to make it clear there will be no agreement at any price.

“Therefore, both national and European contingency planning would now have to start in order to be prepared for no deal 2.0.”

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