A post-Brexit trade deal needs to be done by the end of October, the EU’s ambassador to the UK has said.
Speaking at a Chatham House webinar on the EU-UK relationship, Joao Vale de Almeida said the two sides are in a “unique and historic” situation.
The comments came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted he will not take up an EU offer to extend the transition period beyond the end of the year, raising the possibility of a no-deal break with Brussels.
The ambassador said: “The United Kingdom has confirmed that they don’t want to extend the transition period. We took note.
“We were open for that, but we respect the United Kingdom position. This means very clearly that it will happen on January 1.
“And that means if you do a count down and if you count the need for ratification time, it means that we need to have a deal by, let’s say, the end of October, which is in exactly four months.”
The deadline for any extension request from the UK is July 1.
Asked if an outline deal could be done by July, Mr Vale de Almeida said: “I think that speed is good. We need to accelerate.
“We need to use every week and every month to try to find a deal.
“But when you drive a car and you speed too much, you can risk falling out of the road, so you need to be careful.
“Because the purpose is not to go fast, the purpose is to get to the destination.”
The ambassador said a so-called “skinny deal” being proposed by the UK could be more difficult to agree and ratify than a comprehensive agreement.
He said: “Sometimes skinny deals are more difficult to negotiate than larger deals.
“In a more comprehensive deal you can find better trade offs, you can accommodate different interests.”