The Brexit timetable is indeed incredibly tight for now, with the soon-to-be-sworn-in parliament scheduled to scrutinise the withdrawal bill in the days to come. There is a nuance, however: the bill that is up for a vote has reportedly been amended.
The UK will add a new clause to the Withdrawal Agreement bill to make it illegal for parliament to demand a new extension beyond the end of 2020, the BBC reported, with the amended document due to be voted on Friday this week.
The move is to assure Leave voters who threw their weight behind Johnson in the recent general elections, that the prime minister appreciates their support and is determined to make good on his promise without delay, according to the BBC’s Iain Watson.
The prime minister, incidentally, promised during his campaign that he would not seek an extension to the transition period, thereby prompting Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage to stand down candidates in Tory seats.
Along with ruling out an extension, per the Independent, the amended agreement, which arrived after the prime minister conducted a limited reshuffle of his government on Monday, may omit “provisions to ensure that workers’ rights were not weakened after Brexit”.
However, the decision itself to edit the current bill to rule out extensions was taken with a pinch of salt by some politicians. The opposition says the addition of the clause boosts the chance of divorcing the EU without a trade deal. For instance, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer referred to the motion as “reckless and irresponsible” blasting Prime Minister Johnson as “prepared” to jeopardise people’s jobs.
Johnson, whose Conservative party won a parliament majority of 80 at the 12 December snap vote, is expected to propel the bill into effective legislation with appropriate changes in time for the UK to leave the EU, as scheduled by 31 January.
According to the preliminary plan, the government will then have to arrive at a free trade agreement with EU negotiators until the end of the transition period on 31 December. However, many, including the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, are sceptical that the deadline will ultimately be met. For the time being, if trade talks don’t get rolling or progress too slowly, the sides may agree by July to extend the post-Brexit transition stint for up to two years.
What Awaits British Pre-Brexit Politics This Week
MPs are set to gather for their first duty on Tuesday, as they are to formally elect the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who replaced John Bercow in November.
Later in the day, the Speaker will begin the process of swearing in MPs. They are required to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown, or if they object, a solemn affirmation.
Thursday will see the state opening of Parliament, with the Queen’s Speech due to take centre stage. She will read an address beforehand, prepared by the minister outlining the government’s programme of legislation for the next parliamentary season. The debate on the Queen’s Speech may well continue into Friday, which is also expected to see the Withdrawal Agreement Bill introduced to Parliament for the first time.
EU Warns: ‘Won’t Cut Own Throat’
While the Brexit deadline is just around the corner, closely following the festive season, several post-Brexit concerns have already been raised – namely vis-à-vis the trade deal, which is now in the making.
The Sunday Times reported over the weekend citing a senior EU diplomatic source that there will definitely be some changes to the Brexit timetable, as well as the trade deal content if Johnson doesn’t align the UK’s economy to single market rules.
“If Johnson does not move on alignment then there will not be a zero-tariff, zero-quota deal and certainly no chance of one being agreed in double quick time”, the source said.