Elections have consequences and today the House of Commons voted to pass a withdrawal bill which sets up Brexit by the end of this month. From the BBC:
The Commons voted 330 to 231 in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and it will now pass to the House of Lords for further scrutiny next week…
The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 January…
The latest vote gives approval to the 11-month transition period after 31 January, in which the UK will cease to be an EU member but will continue to follow its rules and contribute to its budget.
The purpose of the transition period is to give time for the UK and EU to negotiate their future relationship, including a trade deal.
The bill will go to the House of Lords but they can’t stop it, only delay it. And given the blowout results of last month’s election, they probably won’t try. Boris Johnson’s successful campaign was focused on the message that he would “get Brexit done” and now he has. At least he’s gotten through the vote. The negotiations with the EU are yet to come.
Yesterday Johnson met with EU President Ursula Von der Leyen. Johnson and Von der Leyen attended the same school so they have something in common. But the Guardian reports that beneath the friendly chatter there is a clear disagreement over the Brexit timeline:
The consensus was that both sides remained committed Europeans. And for the next three months, at least, before the negotiating positions are set, and the talks start in earnest, this is how both sides want the mood music to stay. But the faultlines are clear.
Von der Leyen said the 11 months between the UK’s exit and the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 was not long enough to reach a comprehensive deal covering all aspects of the future relationship. She suggested the prime minister might reconsider his rejection of an extension.
In reality, there is little doubt in Brussels that the prime minister will stick to his guns.
According to the NY Times, the experts doubt a deal can be completed by the end of 2020 but that’s the view Johnson appears set to challenge.
Based on the track record of previous negotiations, most experts have concluded it will be all but impossible to negotiate and sign a comprehensive trade agreement by the end of the year.
Still, the optimists hope for an agreement on the most basic issue: a tariff-free trade deal. Other areas, like aviation, could be postponed until later, using contingency plans developed to keep planes flying had Britain withdrawn without any agreement at all last year. And the government could simply allow some major industries, like car manufacturing, to sign up to European regulations.
Brexit must get done because the people voted for it, twice if you count the last election. Here’s video of Johnson greeting Von der Leyen. Below that is the moment when the withdrawal bill finally passed.