European Union eyes post-Brexit trade arrangements
The European Union is looking forward to having zero tariffs, zero quotas, and zero dumping in trade with Great Britain after Brexit, the new president of the European Commission told reporters on Friday.
Speaking after a two-day summit of European leaders, Ursula von der Leyen expressed hope that the new U.K. parliament would soon ratify the Brexit agreement and the country could leave the EU on Jan. 31, as agreed at the previous EU summit in October.
Britain's Conservative Party won Thursday's snap elections with a strong majority, giving Prime Minister Boris Johnson the political capital to carry out his pledge to deliver on Brexit.
According to von der Leyen, the EU will have "an unprecedented partnership" with the UK, and Brexit is "not the end, but the beginning of excellent relations with between neighbors."
However, she admitted that the previously agreed 11-month transition period between Feb. 1 and Jan. 31, 2020 is "very short" to figure out the details of the post-Brexit relationship in trade and other policy areas.
In a separate press conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed this view, saying she expects "intense negotiations" over future free trade ties between the bloc and the UK.
European heads of states and governments on Friday also discussed their views of the future of the eurozone. The main goal is to raise the euro's role in international trade and finance, but as von der Leyen argued, the EU needs to "complete its homework" by completing the banking union and capital market union.
On the first day of the European Council meeting, EU leaders reaffirmed their commitment for climate neutrality by 2050, but failed to unanimously agree on the implementation due to Poland's concerns.
At the closing press conference, Sanna Marin, Finland's new prime minister, expressed her hope to "find the way forward soon." She also called the commitment for 2050 carbon neutrality a "strong signal for citizens," who expect climate action from their governments.
Merkel also said she understood the view of her Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, given that the green economic transition would cost 4% of Poland's annual GDP.
She also acknowledged that coal constitutes 80% of Poland's energy consumption, versus only 35% for Germany.
EU leaders are set to revisit the topic in June 2020.