Johnson plans to block extension of Brexit transition beyond 2020


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets newly-elected Conservative MPs at the Houses of Parliament, London, Britain December 16, 2019. Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will take the bold step of legislating to prevent any extension of the Brexit transition period beyond 2020, British media including The Times and the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

Making any extension illegal, a move first reported by ITV, would set up a potential cliff-edge unless Johnson can strike a trade deal with the European Union in just 11 months.

After the United Kingdom leaves the EU on Jan. 31, it enters a transition period in which it remains an EU member in all but name while both sides try to hammer out a new trading relationship.

By enshrining in law his campaign promise not to extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020, Johnson cuts the amount of time he has to strike a trade deal to 11 months from nearly three years.

The laws needed to enact Brexit will be put before parliament on Friday, Johnson’s spokesman had said earlier.

While Johnson’s large majority gives him the flexibility to change the law should he need to, he is sending a bold message to the EU. The bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has warned that 11 months is not enough time to strike a comprehensive trade deal.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in London and Akshay Balan in Bengaluru; Editing by Jane Wardell

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