- Boris Johnson has put the prospect of a no-deal Brexit firmly back on the table, by introducing a legal provision making it illegal for the UK to extend trade negotiations with the EU beyond 2020 when they are scheduled to finish.
- A Downing Street source said: ‘Last week, the public voted for a government that would get Brexit done and move this country forward and that’s exactly what we intend to do starting this week.’
- Labour’s Keir Starmer said: ‘The Tories have shown once again that they are prepared to put people’s jobs at risk in pursuit of a hard Brexit.’
- The Brexit bill will come before the new parliament on Friday.
- Reports of Johnson’s plan saw the pound drop over 1% against the dollar and the euro.
Boris Johnson has put the prospect of a no-deal Brexit back on the table after he introduced a legal clause which would make it illegal for Britain to extend trade negotiations with the EU beyond 2020.
The move was branded “reckless and irresponsible” by Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, while Liberal Democrat co-leader Ed Davey said it would “send the country straight off the no-deal cliff.”
The UK is due to leave the EU in January next year but will enter an “implementation period,” remaining closely aligned to EU rules, until December 2020.
Johnson is now redrawing withdrawal agreement bill to make it illegal for parliament to extend the transition period beyond then.
That is despite a warning from Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, that striking a “comprehensive” free-trade deal between the EU and UK in 11 months next year will be impossible.
“With regards to this agreement, we will not get everything done in 11 months. We will do all we can – we won’t do it all,” he told colleagues earlier this month.
The news saw the pound drop more than 1% against the pound and euro, with one analyst warning that the legislation “sets up another cliff-edge and could create yet more months of uncertainty.
Senior figures in Johnson’s Cabinet are also thought to share concerns that a “bare-bones” trade deal that can be negotiated in 11 months will be damaging to jobs and the wider economy.
Johnson insists that he will be able to strike a “fantastic” free trade deal by December next year.
It also breaks a promise by Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, who told MPs ahead of the election that parliament would be given a vote on whether to seek an extension to avoid no deal.
A Downing Street source said: “Last week, the public voted for a government that would get Brexit done and move this country forward and that’s exactly what we intend to do starting this week.”
Johnson’s overhaul of the Brexit bill dampens speculation that he will soften his stance on leaving the EU because he has a big enough majority to marginalise the hard Brexit wing of his party.
He also plans to scrap concessions he had made to opposition MPs in a bid to win their support before the election. He will ditch amendments that would have given parliament a role in post-Brexit trade negotiations, and assurances that there will be no “regression” over workers rights.
Labour’s Keir Starmer said: “This is typical of the reckless and irresponsible behaviour we have come to expect from Boris Johnson ‘s Government.
“The Tories have shown once again that they are prepared to put people’s jobs at risk in pursuit of a hard Brexit.”
Liberal Democrat Ed Davey said: “This Tory government’s reckless approach to Brexit will send the country straight off the no-deal cliff.”
The interim party chief added: “The only way Johnson can meet the December 2020 timetable is by giving up all his previous promises to Leave voters and agreeing to all the demands of the EU.”
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The government will bring back its Brexit deal before parliament for a symbolic first reading on Friday, just a day after the Queen’s Speech.
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