UK-EU trade talks must be ‘intensified,’ urges Von der Leyen

The President of the European Commission says negotiations with the UK need to be “intensified” if a trade deal is to be struck before the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.

Little progress has been made between the two parties over a potential trade deal and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set a deadline of 15 October to agree terms.

Commision President Ursula von der Leyen said “there is still a lot of work to do” but that a deal is “worth working hard on.”

“We should not forget that we have made progress on many different fields, but of course the most difficult ones are still completely open,” Von der Leyen said to reporters at a press conference after the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels.

Brussels and the UK closed the last round of scheduled negotiations on Friday. Downing Street described the week-long talks as “constructive and wide-ranging.”

Von der Leyen said the main outstanding issue was over the “level playing field,” which would ensure fair competition between EU and UK businesses.

“If you want full access to the single market, these fairness rules must apply and questions like state aid are questions of fairness and of competitiveness,” she said.

Differences also remain over how disputes will be handled in the future.

Von der Leyen will hold a video conference with Johnson on Saturday to “take stock” of where negotiations stand and to discuss next steps.

The meeting comes just days after Brussels said it would take legal action over the Johnson administration’s new Internal Market Bill, which would override parts of the UK’s binding Withdrawal Agreement.

There are now fewer than 100 days until the Brexit transition period comes to an end. If no deal is reached, trade would default to World Trade Organization rules, ushering in tariffs on many UK goods exported to the EU.