The move will increase the risk of the UK leaving on World Trade Organization terms on December 31, 2020 and comes as the WTO itself is in disarray, with its appeal court – that enforces trade rules – out of action after US President Donald Trump blocked the appointment of new judges.
It could also mean that a raft of other matters from agreements allowing planes to fly between the UK and EU to cooperation on fighting terrorism, Erasmus exchanges or immigration and social security coordination rules are left unresolved. Included in this could be future rules governing second home owners, a replacement version of the Ehic travellers’ medical arrangements and rules for new expatriates.
The current date of December 31, 2020, for the end of the Brexit transition period was written into the Withdrawal Agreement based on a March 31, 2019 Brexit, but allowing for the parties to agree to a further extension of one or two years before July 1, 2020.
However government sources are quoted as saying UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson intends to rule an extension out with a new clause in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill which MPs will start to debate again at the end of this week.
The House of Commons resumes work today with two days of swearing in of MPs, then the state opening of Parliament on Thursday with a new Queen’s Speech which will repeat issues from the previous one in October plus other Conservative manifesto promises.
October’s speech contained nothing about Votes for Life for Britons abroad, but it was a manifesto promise so may be added this time.
MPs’ first job, however, will be to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) Bill, needed to put the provisions of the Brexit WA into action in UK law.
An initial version was considered by MPs prior to the general election, but they refused Mr Johnson’s bid to force it through in a few days to meet a Brexit deadline of the end of October. It therefore fell away and needs to be introduced again.
It will have to be debated in a speeded-up process if it is to be complete before the expected Brexit date of January 31, 2020, as UK law requires. It is thought that this is likely to be done, in view of the Conservatives’ substantial new majority.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has said the move to add a clause making an extension illegal is "reckless and irresponsible".
The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has called 11 months an “improbable” timeframe and has said not everything can be done thoroughly in such a short period however if forced to they will try to agree to a “vital minimum for trade and security”.
Meanwhile President Macron has said it may be possible for the talks to go very fast if the UK agrees to leave most things – especially alignment on standards on the environment, working rights, safety etc in place.
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