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Brexit: UK-EU trade deal to be on FTA and not `alignment` – Johnson to tell EU chief at first meeting

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European commission. Photograph: Stéphanie Lecocq/EPA


Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen, including Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn at the first PMQs of 2020 and Johnson’s meeting with the new European commission president, Ursula von der LeyenLIVE Updated 7m ago

One of Boris Johnson’s ambitions for 2020, apparently, is to turn Brexit into a story for the business pages and not the front pages (assuming he fails in his reported ambition to get people to stop using the word altogether). You might think some of the Brexiters have concluded that the whole process hasn’t been quite the triumph that some of them were predicting in 2016. But it would be surprising if the UK-EU trade negotiating taking place this year does not end up being a front-page story and, although that negotiation is not starting today, there will be an important landmark in the process when Boris Johnson holds his first meeting with the new president of the European commission, the former German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen. They will meet in Downing Street this afternoon, a few hours after Von der Leyen delivers a lecture on the UK-EU relationship at the LSE.

According to Downing Street, Johnson will tell Von der Leyen that he is firmly committed to wrapping up the negotiation this year (which many experts think is unrealistic), that he is firmly opposed to extending the post-Brexit transition period and that the new deal will not be based on “alignment” with EU rules. In a statement last night Downing Street said:

At the leaders’ first face to face meeting, since Von der Leyen took office in December, the prime minister is expected to stress the importance of agreeing a confident and positive future relationship by the end of December 2020.

He is expected to tell President Von der Leyen that, having waited for over three years to get Brexit done, both British and EU citizens rightly expect negotiations on an ambitious free trade agreement (FTA) to conclude on time. There will be no extension to the implementation period, which will end in December 2020 as set out in the political declaration. The withdrawal agreement bill enshrines this in UK law.

The prime minister will likely underline that the upcoming negotiations will be based on an ambitious FTA, not on alignment.

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