EU chief says future UK relationship ‘will not be the same as before’

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrives for a speech at the London School of Economics in London, Britain, 08 January 2020. Von der Leyen is on an official visit to London where she is expected to meet with Britain's Prime Minster Boris Johnson. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL

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EU Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU and UK will still be the “best of friends and partners” on 1 February – the day after the current Brexit deadline.

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and  von der Leyen will meet later on Wednesday for talks in Downing Street.

Ahead of her talks with Boris Johnson in Downing Street, Ursula von der Leyen is giving a speech at the London School of Economics.

The European Commission president begins by speaking fondly of her year spent studying at the university.

She says she wants to “pay tribute” to all those in Britain who have contributed during its 45 years of EU membership.

Mrs von der Leyen says that, for many, the 2016 EU referendum result was a “bitter pill to swallow”.

But she says the bloc has “always fully respected that decision”.

She added it is time for “the best and oldest of friends to build a new future together”.

Mrs von der Leyen says the EU stands ready to “negotiate a truly ambitious and comprehensive new partnership with Britain” in the next phase of taks.

She adds that Brussels wants the new relationship to be “zero tariffs, zero quotas, zero dumping”.

But Mrs von der Leyen cautions that the partnership “cannot and will not be the same as before” and that it won’t be as close as it is currently.

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