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Top EU official warns transition period for Brexit might have to be delayed

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen right, speaks during the Commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty .
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen right, speaks during the Commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty .   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias   -   Jean-Francois Badias
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A top European official suggested UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson should reconsider his refusal extend the transition period after the country's official leaving date on January 31, 2020.

Head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen expressed "serious concern" about the feasibility of wrapping up the negotiations on a "free trade deal and many other subjects," she said in an interview with French newspaper Les Echos.

“I am very concerned about how little time we have,” Von der Leyen said. “It seems to me that, on both sides, we should seriously consider whether the negotiations are feasible in such a short time.”

After Britain's official exit from the EU, there will be an 11-month-long transition period to drill down on the details of the future relationship.

“I think it would be reasonable to take stock in the middle of the year and if necessary, agree on an extension to the transition period,” Von der Leyen said.

As the leader of the executive commission, Von der Leyen heads the EU institution responsible for Brexit talks and negotiating trade deals on behalf of member countries.

Such trade pacts routinely take years to complete, and businesses fear that the U.K. could face a new “no-deal” Brexit scenario at the start of 2021 if questions about whether tariff-free trade with the country’s biggest trading partner remains unanswered.

But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted he would not agree to any delays. Johnson who won a solid parliamentary majority in an election earlier this month, which helped him push a Brexit withdrawal deal through the lower house of Parliament,

The Brexit bill contained amendments that bar the British government from extending the transition period beyond 2020.

Under Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty rule book, which governs how countries leave the bloc, any new extension to the departure process must be agreed by June 30, 2020.

When the UK leaves the EU at the end of January, it will be the first time a country leaves the world’s biggest trading bloc. Negotiations between the remaining members and the British government on future trade, fisheries, education and transport relations can only begin after that date and must conclude by the end of 2020.