The EU's trade chief says it's 'just not possible' for Boris Johnson to agree a Brexit trade deal by the end of 2020

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  • The EU’s trade chief warns that Boris Johnson’s plan for a comprehensive UK-EU trade deal by the end of 2020 is “just not possible.”
  • Phil Hogan, the new EU Commissioner for trade, said on Thursday that both sides would not have time to reach an agreement on all aspects of the future UK-EU relationship by the end of this year.
  • The prime minister has promised that it is “epically likely” the UK will secure a full, comprehensive trade agreement in the next 11 months.
  • Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has also warned that London’s goal of securing a full free trade deal in 2020 was unrealistic. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

LONDON — The EU’s trade chief has warned that Boris Johnson’s pledge to deliver a full free trade deal with the EU by the end of 2020 is “just not possible.”

The prime minister insisted this week that it is “epically likely” that the UK will secure a full, comprehensive trade agreement with the EU by the end of 2020 and will legislate against any further extensions to the transition period.

However, Phil Hogan, the new EU Commissioner for trade who will play a central part in negotiations, warned on Thursday that both sides would not have time to reach an agreement on all aspects of the future UK-EU relationship by the end of this year.

“Certainly by the end of the year, we are not going to get everything that’s in the 36-page document about the future relationship agreed,” he told a panel at a Global Counsel trade conference in London.

“Prime Minister Johnson has decided that he wants to have everything concluded by the end of the year. It’s just not possible,” he said.

The former Irish minister also warned Johnson against repeating the mistakes of his predecessor Theresa May by setting arbitrary timelines that were difficult to meet. 

“How we manage this politically between [the UK and EU] we are certainly open to suggestions, but I think the wisest thing to do is that we should not pencil ourselves into timelines again,” he said.

“We have seen that putting ourselves in timelines over the last three years has not been that helpful, especially the way it’s played out in the House of Commons.”

Theresa May delayed Brexit twice after the House of Commons refused to pass her deal with the EU, with Johnson also forced into a third delay last year.

Hogan’s comments reflect a wider belief within the European Union that there is simply not enough time to negotiate a comprehensive deal this year.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, warned earlier in January that London’s goal of securing a full free trade deal in 2020 was unrealistic. 

“We cannot expect to agree on every aspect of this new partnership,” he said.