Britain’s government plans to amend the European Union withdrawal agreement bill with a new clause that will make it illegal for Parliament to extend the process beyond the end of next year.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will attempt to mark his election promise to “get Brexit done” by writing into law that the United Kingdom will not extend the transition period.
The transition period is set to conclude in December 2020, but currently can be extended for up to two years, if both the UK and EU members agree.
A Downing Street source said: “Our manifesto made clear that we will not extend the implementation period and the new withdrawal agreement bill will legally prohibit government agreeing to any extension.”
Winning a commanding majority with 365 seats in last week’s election, Johnson can push through a Brexit deal and start reshaping trade and relations in the way he wants, without worrying about support from opposition.
The government will ask Parliament to vote on Johnson’s amended withdrawal agreement bill－known as the Brexit bill－on Friday, Downing Street confirmed.
The prime minister’s spokesman said the government planned to start the process in Parliament before Christmas in the “proper constitutional way”.
Asked if the new Brexit bill would be identical to that introduced in the last Parliament, the spokesman said: “You will have to wait for it to be published, but it will reflect the agreement that we made with the EU on our withdrawal.”
The bill is expected to pass through Parliament in time to meet Johnson’s promise for the UK to leave the EU on Jan 31. If the bill is passed, the government will have until the end of the transition period on Dec 31, 2020 to negotiate a free trade agreement with the bloc.
However, if the UK doesn’t seal a deal by the end of the transition period, then the UK-EU trade relationship will default to World Trade Organization terms.
Government sources have indicated that having a clear, fixed deadline will focus minds of both sets of negotiators on securing a deal. But critics say a relatively short transition period opens the possibility of leaving with no trade deal at all.