The European Union is ready to negotiate a truly ambitious and comprehensive new partnership with the United Kingdom. “We will make as much of this as we can. We will go as far as we can”, said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission in her speech on 8 January at the London School of Economics and Political Science. In the meeting with the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson the same von der leyen day, she framed the forthcoming discussions on the future relationship between the Union and the UK.
In her address titled “Old friends, new beginnings”, President von der Leyen reflected on the longstanding contributions of the United Kingdom to European integration during more than 45 years of EU membership. She paid tribute to leading political figures, as well as European civil servants and members of EU civilian and military missions of British nationality who have devoted their careers to building the EU and safeguarding European interests.
“Now is the time for us to look forward together. It is time for the best and the oldest of friends to build a new future together”, von der Leyen said as she spoke of the outlook of the UK leaving the European Union on 31 January 2020. Against the backdrop of an unsettling global order and cross-border threats and challenges, she stressed that the EU and the UK still shared the same history, the same geography and the same destiny.
Von der Leyen said the EU would start the negotiations of the new relations with the UK from a position of certainty, goodwill, shared interests and purpose. She was realistic in assessing the EU-UK partnership could not be the same as before. “The more divergence there is the more distant the partnership has to be. And without an extension of the transition period beyond 2020, you cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our new partnership”, she said adding that we would have to prioritise.
“We are ready to design a new partnership with zero tariffs, zero quotas, zero dumping. A partnership that goes well beyond trade and is unprecedented in scope”, von der Leyen explained, while pointing out that the EU would work for solutions that uphold its integrity, its Single Market and its Customs Union.
President von der Leyen and Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed that the EU and the UK share common values and many interests, and that there are many areas where cooperation on the global stage will be invaluable, such as climate change, human rights, security, and others.