Boris Johnson to block further Brexit extensions

Amendment to withdrawal agreement bill will outlaw further delays

(Image credit: (Leon Neal/Getty Images))

Boris Johnson will attempt to write into law that the UK will leave the EU in 2020 to block further attempts to extend the transition period.

A Downing Street source told The Guardian: “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.”

The post-Brexit transition period - due to conclude at the end of December 2020 - can currently be extended by mutual agreement for up to two years.

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Downing Street is working on amending the withdrawal agreement bill so that the transition, also known as the implementation period, must end on 31 December 2020 and there will be no request to the EU for a further extension. The Times says the move “will put him in direct conflict with Brussels”.

The BBC’s political correspondent, Iain Watson, said the move is “designed to underline to those Leave voters who have backed [Johnson’s] party for the first time that he is determined to deliver Brexit” and that “he wants to quash speculation that he would be prepared to go for a deal that keeps the UK in close step with Brussels”.

Watson adds that government sources say that having a hard deadline will “focus the minds of both sets of negotiators on achieving a deal”.

However, critics are already attacking the move, warning that it increases the chance of leaving the EU without a trade deal.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the move was “reckless and irresponsible” and he warned that Johnson was “prepared to put people's jobs at risk”.

Senior EU figures, including the bloc's chief negotiator Michel Barnier, are sceptical that a deal can be agreed by the end of 2020.

Thanks to his 80-strong majority, Johnson is expected to get the bill into law with few changes in time for the UK to end its EU membership on 31 January.

Government negotiators will then have until the end of the transition period on 31 December to negotiate a free trade agreement with Brussels before the trade relationship defaults to World Trade Organisation terms.

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