German businesses warn of lengthy trade talks with Britain

German businesses on Tuesday rejected Britain’s claims that it could sign off on a trade deal with the European Union by the end of the year, warning that London still risked crashing out of the EU before any agreement could be reached.

“It is impossible for such a programme to be completed by the end of the year,” said Joachim Lang, general manager of the Federation of German Industry (BDI).

He said the transition period until the end of December for Britain’s EU membership following its exit from the Brussels-based bloc on Friday at 2300 GMT was not enough to wind up negations for a comprehensive free trade agreement.

Lang warned: “The risk of a hard Brexit by the end of the year is not off the table.”

He said the EU and London could only conclude a simple agreement on matters that are essentially the responsibility of the EU, which is Britain’s largest trading partner.

“I think it is a grave mistake for the British government to categorically exclude the extension of the transition period,” Lang told reporters in Berlin.

The negotiators would need significantly more time, he said.

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