Brexit: UK warned only ’50-50′ chance of EU-UK trade deal this year

The chances of sealing a trade deal between the European Union and Britain this year are only 50-50, the Dutch prime minister has warned.

Speaking to Sky News on the fringes of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mark Rutte also raised the prospect of another Brexit cliff-edge at the end of 2020.

Asked what he thought the probability that Boris Johnson would indeed fulfil his pledge to get a deal on Britain’s future relationship sewn up by the end of the year, Mr Rutte said: “50-50 because a year is not very long.

“And if the UK is really not willing to ask for an extension then we run the risk that we might get a cliff edge again.

“I don’t hope so, I won’t work against it to prevent it. But it’s still that case.”

His comments are the latest sign of the uphill struggle facing the UK this year as it attempts to negotiate new trade deals with both the EU and the US simultaneously.

Most trade deals tend to take years to complete but both the UK government and the US have pledged to secure a deal before the end of this year.

However, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned earlier this week that that deal may hinge on whether the UK ditches its new tax on tech giants.

The prime minister has refused to countenance allowing trade negotiations with the EU to drag on beyond the end of the year but those talks are likely to be challenging given the UK has pledged to shift its regulations and rules away from the EU norms.

“We will not be a rule-taker,” the chancellor told a lunch for business leaders here in the Swiss mountain resort.

He added that he intended to present a budget this year that would overhaul the nature of the UK economy.

“This is a new decade, a new government and a new chapter,” he said.

“We need a course correction for the UK economy. This is not about abandoning ship, but we do need to strike more of a balance between the sound economics of capitalism and supporting our people with a new form of human capitalism.”

He added that he intended to use the Budget in March to “level up” left-behind parts of the UK economy.

“We have allowed regional inequality to become a national disgrace,” he said.

The chancellor cut short his Davos trip to return to the UK for meetings on the UK’s trade negotiations, which will begin formally once the UK has left the EU at the end of next week.

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