Brexit Secretary Suggests UK Could Stay Tied to EU Until 2022

Brexit
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Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay has suggested that the transition period — when the UK is still closely aligned to the EU after Brexit Day — could last until 2022, six years after the vote to Leave.

Mr Barclay made the comments on BBC Radio 4’s Pienaar’s Politics on Sunday after he claimed the government could still agree a withdrawal treaty with the EU before October 31st which removed the controversial Irish backstop — the mechanism that could lock the UK in regulatory alignment with the EU should London not agree a future deal with Brussels before the end of the transition period.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May had agreed with the EU an exit treaty with an initial leave date of March 29th, 2019, then following a “transition” period until December 2020 during which time the UK would remained closely aligned with the EU and be unable to enact new trade deals with third countries; for all intents and purposes, the UK would still be in the EU until nearly 2021.

While the treaty failed to pass in the House of Commons three times, Boris Johnson maintains that his first preference is for this deal to be renegotiated and passed, with the default being no deal on October 31st.

Mr Barclay confirmed that if this new treaty is agreed, changes to the UK’s trading relationship with the bloc “do not apply until the end of the implementation period, which is December 2020 or one or two years later by mutual agreement”. The Brexit secretary evaded a direct response to whether the transition period could last until 2022, saying it is “what the legal text says” and that any extension beyond 2020 would be by “mutual consent”.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab tried to walk back those comments, saying on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday: “No. It’s not something under consideration.”

Spartan Brexiteers in the Tory Party already object to the withdrawal treaty, not least because of the long transition period, and the prospect of being wedded to the EU for even longer could deter more Brexiteers from backing any deal the prime minister may attempt to return to the House of Commons, rallying more MPs around a clean, no deal exit where the relationship with the EU is completely severed on October 31st.

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