Talks on post-Brexit trade pact may begin next month: European Commission

The European Union and the United Kingdom may start talks on their post-Brexit trade ties as early as next month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.

"We will start negotiating the moment the mandate is there… We do have around eight months because the talks will start at the end of February or the beginning of March," she told reporters in Dublin.

The UK is poised to leave the bloc in about two weeks’ time. The divorce deal is being ratified in the British parliament, and the European Parliament will ratify it at the end of the month.

Von der Leyen said during her trip to Ireland that the post-Brexit pact was about more than trade. It includes cooperation between researchers and universities, among other issues.

She said she felt Brussels was "in a very good spirit" to move forward as fast as possible on this new deal, in which a lot will be the UK’s choice.

"The UK knows the closer they want to be to the single market the more they have to align to the rules of the single market," the commissioner noted.

The UK will also decide whether to extend the trade talks past 31 December of this year. It will take the EU about two months to ratify the pact, according to von der Leyen.

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