Tag Archives: brexit

Ireland open to modest prolonging to Northern Ireland Brexit grace period.

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Coveney was speaking ahead of talks on the issue next week in London between British Cabinet Office..

Ireland is open to “modest” extensions of waivers on the movement of certain goods from Britain into Northern Ireland after the British government asked the European Union to tweak post-Brexit rules, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.

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Coveney was speaking ahead of talks on the issue next week in London between British Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, both of whom Coveney said he was in regular contact with.

“I would be open to advocating for modest extensions of grace periods,” Coveney told Ireland’s RTE Radio, but he said there was no question of scrapping the Northern Ireland Protocol of Britain’s EU divorce deal.

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#Newsworthy

Boris Johnson ‘conditions’ Scotland on new voting

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Recent polls have shown consistent support for independence, boosted by rows between London and the devolved governments over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Another Scottish independence referendum should not take place for a generation, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday, as Scotland’s leader renewed calls for a fresh vote in the wake of Brexit.

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“Referendums in my experience, direct experience, in this country are not particularly jolly events,” the prime minister told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“They don’t have a notably unifying force in the national mood, they should be only once in a generation.”

Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom in 2014.

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Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon at the time called it a once-in-a-generation vote, but now argues that Britain’s departure from the European Union, which a majority of Scots opposed, has changed the game.

“For too long, successive UK governments have taken Scotland in the wrong direction, culminating in Brexit. It’s no wonder so many people in Scotland have had enough,” she wrote on her party’s website on Saturday.

“We didn’t want to leave and we hope to join you again soon as an equal partner,” she added, in a message to the EU.

Johnson has ruled out holding another vote, but Sturgeon will likely claim a mandate and heap pressure on the prime minister should her party perform well in upcoming local elections.

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When asked why it was fair to hold a referendum on EU membership but not another on Scottish independence, Johnson told Marr: “The difference is we had a (European) referendum in 1975 and we then had another one in 2016.

“That seems to be about the right sort of gap.”

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#Newsworthy

Just in: Brexit trade deal successful on ‘final trial’

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The EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will provide a briefing on the EU-UK negotiations, the spokesman said.

The United Kingdom and European Union have agreed on a post-Brexit trade deal after months of torturous negotiations, averting the prospect of a chaotic and acrimonious divorce at the end of this year.

The announcement on Thursday came just one week before the UK exits the EU’s single market and customs union on December 31.

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“The deal is done,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted, as he posted a photo of himself with both thumbs raised in celebration.

Delivering a televised address, Johnson hailed striking what he called “the biggest trade deal yet”, adding that Britain had taken back control of its laws, borders, and fishing waters.

“We have completed the biggest trade deal yet, worth 660 billion pounds a year, a comprehensive Canada-style free trade deal between the UK and the EU,” he said.

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His comments came after a Downing Street source said the agreement was “fantastic news for families and businesses in every part of the UK”.

“We have signed the first free trade agreement based on zero tariffs and zero quotas that has ever been achieved with the EU,” the source said.

“We have delivered this great deal for the entire United Kingdom in record time, and under extremely challenging conditions, which protects the integrity of our internal market and Northern Ireland’s place within it.”

EU and British negotiators were up all night working on the deal, reportedly fuelled by takeaway pizzas, as they hashed out final details at the Berlaymont in Brussels, the headquarters of the European Commission.

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Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, meanwhile, spoke several times by phone.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow,” von der Leyen said in Brussels shortly after the deal was announced. “It is time to leave Brexit behind. Our future is made in Europe.

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“We have finally found an agreement. It was a long and winding road but we have got a good deal to show for it.

“It is fair, it is a balanced deal and it is the right and responsible thing to do for both sides.”

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, speaking alongside von der Leyen, said: “Today is a day of relief, but tinged by some sadness as we compare what came before with what lies ahead.

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“The clock is no longer ticking, after four years of collective effort and EU unity to preserve peace and stability on the island of Ireland, to protect the citizens and the single market, and to build a new partnership with the UK.”

The deal comes more than four years after a slim majority of Britons voted to quit the bloc in a June 2016 referendum on EU membership

The agreement document is said to be about 2,000 pages long. In essence, it is a narrow free trade pact surrounded with other agreements on a range of issues including energy, transport and police and security cooperation.

What next?

Both sides now have just days to get the pact ratified before January 1.

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The UK Parliament, in which Johnson’s governing Conservative Party has a strong majority, is expected to sign off on the deal before December 31, when the Brexit transition period ends.

Johnson said he hoped the agreement would be put to MPs for a vote next week, on December 30.

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But things are more complicated on the EU side, with the leaders of its 27 member states required to approve of any agreement before it can then be sent to the European Parliament for its consent – a challenge made more difficult by the Christmas holiday period and amid a worsening coronavirus crisis.

EU law does, however, include a provision for agreements to be provisionally approved by its 27 member states, without its parliament’s consent.

European Parliament President David Sassoli on Thursday confirmed the institution will analyse the deal “in detail” before deciding whether to give its consent in the new year.

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“We will act responsibly in order to minimise disruption to citizens and prevent the chaos of a no-deal scenario,” Sassoli said on Twitter.

European Union ambassadors will meanwhile meet at 10:30am CET (09:30 GMT) on Friday, Christmas Day, to begin reviewing the post-Brexit trade deal clinched on Thursday by the EU and Britain, an EU spokesman said.

“The German EU Council Presidency has just convened a COREPER meeting for tomorrow 10.30am. EU Ambassadors will start reviewing the EU-UK agreement,” an EU spokesman for Germany, which holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, said on Twitter. COREPER is the name given to meetings of EU envoys.

News of a deal has meanwhile brought a sense of relief for many in the UK and across Europe.

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Had the UK and the EU failed to compromise, a no-deal Brexit scenario would have forced them to default to trading under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules from January 1.

WTO rules would have brought financial tariffs, quotas and other regulatory barriers to trade into play.

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#Newsworthy

Update: Last strive to save “dying” Brexit deal

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European capitals have remained remarkably united behind Barnier through the fraught Brexit process, but some internal fractures have now begun to surface.

British and EU negotiators embark on probably their final two-day scramble to secure a post-Brexit trade deal Sunday, after failing to reach agreement for eight months.

Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost will resume talks in Brussels where they broke off on Friday, calling a pause after a fruitless week of late-night wrangling in London.

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“We will see if there is a way forward,” Barnier tweeted.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reportedly lobby European leaders, after a call with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday ended with the sides still facing “significant differences” on the key issues.

The pair’s next call will be on Monday evening and then the 27 EU leaders will gather in Brussels on Thursday for a two-day summit planned to tackle their own budget dispute, but which will now once again be clouded by Brexit worries.

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Johnson and von der Leyen’s issued a downbeat joint statement after their call.

“Whilst recognising the seriousness of these differences, we agreed that a further effort should be undertaken by our negotiating teams to assess whether they can be resolved,” they said.

While much has been agreed, the sides cannot close out the thorniest debates over fishing rights, fair trade rules and an enforcement mechanism to govern any deal.

– ‘Anything is possible’ -Britain formally left the EU in January, nearly four years after a referendum on membership that split the nation down the middle and two months after Johnson won an election touting what he claimed was an “oven ready” Brexit deal.

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The UK is bound to the EU’s tariff-free single market until a post-Brexit transition period expires the end of the year — an immovable deadline by which time the two sides must try to agree on the exact nature of their future relationship.

“Anything is possible. The three open issues are linked by Britain’s intent to keep sovereignty a priority and Europe’s fear of UK freeloading,” a source with close knowledge of the talks told AFP.

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Without a deal, the bulk of cross-Channel trade will revert to World Trade Organization terms, a return to tariffs and quotas after almost five decades of close economic and political integration.

Talks through this year have finalised most aspects of an agreement, with Britain set to leave the EU single market and customs union, but the three core issues are unresolved.

Johnson has insisted Britain will “prosper mightily” whatever the outcome of the talks, but he will face severe political and economic fallout if he cannot seal a deal.

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“If we fail to get an agreement with the European Union, this will be a serious failure of statecraft,” influential Conservative lawmaker Tom Tugendhat told the Lowy Institute in an interview published Saturday.

On Friday, France threatened to veto any deal that falls short of their demands on ensuring fair trade and access to UK fishing waters, where they have demanded a durable agreement, whereas Britain wants frequent renegotiations.

“We know that 100 percent access to fishing waters in the UK maritime zone is finished,” European Affairs minister Clement Beaune told le Journal du Dimanche.

“But we need lasting access. The British can’t have total access to our EU single market and exclude fish.”

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Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Denmark share Paris’s concerns that the EU side could give too much ground on rules to maintain competition.

There are just days left to finalise a deal, with an EU leaders’ summit on Thursday looming large and the European Parliament repeatedly insisting that it needs time to evaluate and ratify any compromise.

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#Newsworthy

Ireland, close to ‘a brexit deal’ – 5 reasons

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Ireland is the member hardest hit by Brexit and the EU has stoutly defended Dublin’s position.

With talks between Britain and the EU in deadlock on a post-Brexit trade deal, we look at why so many roads to a settlement go through Dublin:

Dublin did last deal -The last time Britain looked like crashing out with a no-deal hard Brexit on Halloween Night last year, it was talks between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his then Irish opposite number Leo Varadkar that saved the day.

Few at the time gave their meeting at a wedding venue near Liverpool a chance, but the two men found the elusive “pathway” to the deal that was completed in Brussels later in October 2019.

Only land border -The island of Ireland is split in two, with Northern Ireland part of the UK. The frontier with the Republic of Ireland is EU’s only land border with the UK.

In the event of a hard Brexit, it will become the EU’s new external border.

Any unruly British exit could cause havoc along the extremely porous 499-kilometre (310 mile) frontier — long infamous for smuggling — and compromise the European single market.

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Anglo-Irish Agreement -Some argue that a hard Brexit would break the agreements that brought the violence of Northern Ireland’s 30-year Troubles to an end.

The EU helped hugely to make peace possible.

But the 1997 treaty says very little about a hard border, even if many agree it would go against its spirit.

Fearful that customs checkpoints could reignite violence, both the EU and Britain have repeatedly pledged to avoid such a demarcation.

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Joe Biden -The US president-elect — who is fiercely proud of his Irish roots — has taken a very dim view of Brexit.

When Johnson said in September that Britain would break parts of the existing withdrawal treaty with the bloc, Biden warned it would jeopardise a US-UK trade deal.

“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” he tweeted.

“Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”

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One side of Biden’s Irish family comes from an area near the border on the Cooley peninsula.

– ‘Creative ambiguity’ -London and Dublin are used to solving seemingly intractable problems — like the Troubles — with this age-old diplomatic device.

After British hopes evaporated that the EU would “throw Ireland under the bus” when push came to shove, Dublin seemed to have the diplomatic edge.

With little sign of an end to the latest stalemate, a dose of the Anglo-Irish creative ambiguity that delivered the last deal may be called for yet again.


#Newsworthy…

EU-UK ‘free market’ pressure mount ahead fresh brexit talks.

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EU’s chief negotiator ‘worried’ as UK reportedly plans new law to override key parts of Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Brexit trade talks have plunged into crisis on the eve of a penultimate round of negotiations in London, after the United Kingdom warned the European Union that it could effectively override the divorce deal it signed unless the bloc agrees to a free trade deal by October 15.

Tensions mounted on Monday, with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier saying he was “worried” about negotiations, and that he will seek clarification from London about plans to renege on commitments.

The UK is reportedly planning new legislation that will override key parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – a step that, if implemented, could jeopardise a treaty signed in January and stoke tension in Northern Ireland.

Sections of the internal market bill, due to be published on Wednesday, are expected to “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs, the Financial Times newspaper said on Monday, citing three people familiar with the plans.

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If no deal is agreed, both sides should “accept that and move on”, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will say later on Monday. In this scenario, the UK would have a trading relationship with the bloc like Australia’s, which would be “a good outcome”, Johnson will say.

Johnson will also say there is no sense in thinking about timelines beyond October 15.

“If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on,” he will say.

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As the prospect of a no-deal Brexit loomed, sterling fell against the dollar and euro.

The UK left the EU on January 31, but talks aimed at clinching a new trade deal before the end of a status-quo transition arrangement in December have so far snagged on state aid rules and fishing.

The UK is reportedly planning new legislation that will override key parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement [File: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters]

Without a deal, nearly $1 trillion in trade between the UK and the EU could be thrown into uncertainty, including rules over everything from car parts and medicines to fruit and data.

European concern over UK’s reported plan
The reported plan to undermine the Withdrawal Agreement was condemned by parties on both sides of the Irish border and surprised some in Brussels.

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“If the UK chose not to respect its international obligations, it would undermine its international standing,” said one EU diplomat.

“Who would want to agree trade deals with a country that doesn’t implement international treaties? It would be a desperate and ultimately self-defeating strategy,” the diplomat said.

“Without correct implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, I cannot imagine the EU would conclude a treaty with a country that does not abide by its treaty commitments,” said another EU diplomat.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who played a key role in negotiating the withdrawal agreement and Northern Ireland protocol, said on Twitter that the reported move “would be a very unwise way to proceed”.

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Senior members of Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein and SDLP parties, the region’s two largest Irish nationalist groups, also criticised the UK’s reported plan.

Asked about the report in the Financial Times, British Environment Secretary George Eustice said there might be some minor “legal ambiguities” that needed to be tidied up over the Northern Irish protocol.

“We are not moving the goal posts,” he told Sky News broadcaster.

Barnier said everything that has been signed “must be respected”, as he planned to discuss the FT report with his British counterpart David Frost during this week’s talks.

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“The important thing for me is what the prime minister says and does, and what the British government itself says and does,” he said.

Regarding Northern Ireland, Barnier insisted that under the withdrawal deal it will continue to apply the EU’s single market rules, intended to avoid a “hard border” with Ireland but which would effectively create a trade border in the Irish Sea.

The move is meant to avoid reviving sectarian tensions between Ireland and Northern Ireland that were largely calmed by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

“No land border is the pre-requisite for peace since the end of the conflict … and it’s the pre-requisite for a united and coherent economy for the entire island, and also to respect the single market,” Barnier said.


#Newsworthy…

United kingdom sets deadline for ‘Free Trade’ deal with EU.

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Post-Brexit trade talks have stalled over the UK’s push for autonomy over state aid and fishing rights.

The United Kingdom has set a deadline of October 15 to strike a free-trade deal with the European Union, and if none is agreed, both sides should “accept that and move on”, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will say on Monday.

The UK left the EU on January 31, but there has been little progress on a new trade deal after a status-quo transition arrangement ends in December. Failure to reach a deal could result in the imposition of trade tariffs and customs controls for goods moving between the UK and EU.

Talks, which have stalled over the UK’s insistence that it has full autonomy over state aid and fishing, are due to resume in London on Tuesday.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said an agreement on trade needed to be reached urgently and he blamed the stalemate on the UK’s attitude.

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Johnson will say there is no sense in thinking about timelines beyond October 15.

“If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on,” he will say, according to comments released by his office.

If no deal is agreed, the UK would have a trading relationship with the bloc like Australia’s, which would be “a good outcome”, Johnson will say.

The EU has been negotiating a trade agreement with Australia since 2018 but has yet to conclude a deal.

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‘Full control’
“As a government we are preparing, at our borders and at our ports, to be ready for it,” Johnson will say. “We will have full control over our laws, our rules and our fishing waters.”

The United Kingdom’s government is preparing legislation that could undermine a potential free trade agreement with the European Union, according to the Financial Times [File: Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

In that case, the UK would be ready to find sensible accommodation with the bloc on practical issues such as flights, lorry transport or scientific cooperation, according to the excerpts.

The Financial Times newspaper reported that the British government is planning legislation that will override key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, risking the collapse of trade negotiations with Brussels.

Sections of the internal market bill, due to be published on Wednesday, are expected to “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs, the newspaper said, citing three people familiar with the plans.

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A source told the newspaper that the move could “clearly and consciously” undermine the agreement on Northern Ireland – a part of the UK – that Johnson signed last October to avoid a return to a hard border with the neighbouring Republic of Ireland.

The UK’s Brexit negotiator David Frost said on Sunday that the British government was not scared of a no-deal exit at the end of the year.

Johnson will say there is still a deal to be had based on a standard free trade agreement if the EU is ready to rethink its current position.

“But we cannot and will not compromise on the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country to get it,” he will say.


#Newsworthy…

[London] Brexit talk resume despite COVID-19 pandemic.


British and EU officials were scheduled to restart Brexit trade talks Monday after a break because of the coronavirus, which is making an end-of-year deal look even more unlikely.

After a first round in early March negotiations were suspended for six weeks as officials focused on the deadly virus sweeping Europe.

The June deadline set by London to assess the chances of an agreement is now fast approaching.

The novel coronavirus has affected officials directly, hitting both EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost — and then, dramatically, putting Prime Minister Boris Johnson in intensive care.

Despite the ticking clock and the extra pressure brought by the worst global pandemic in living memory, Johnson’s government rules out extending Britain’s transition period to negotiate a future relationship with the EU.

Britain left the EU on January 31 but remains tied to it until the end of December.

Fears are growing that no deal will be reached, meaning that WTO rules with high tariffs and customs barriers would come into force between the UK and EU.

That prospect so alarmed the head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, that last week she urged Brussels and London to extend their deadline, saying it was in everyone’s interests to reduce uncertainty amid the economic turmoil wrought by the pandemic.

But Johnson has remained deaf to the appeal, despite Britain’s budget watchdog warning that the coronavirus lockdown could shrink the country’s economy by a massive 13 percent in 2020.


>>> Double Shock <<<


Because of virus restrictions, this week’s talks will take place by videolink.

Fabian Zuleeg of the European Policy Centre warned there could be “no meaningful negotiations” at this point — because of the technical limitations of video talks and because politicians’ focus is on fighting the pandemic.

In these circumstances, it will probably be necessary to extend the deadline to avoid Britain crashing out with no deal and facing a further economic shock on top of the coronavirus recession, Zuleeg said.

“But so far, Brexit has never been about the best economic option. It very much depends on what price Boris Johnson is willing to pay for what is portrayed in the UK as ‘sovereignty’ and ‘independence’,” Zuleeg said

A European source close to the talks said a “Johnson Brexit” — sacrificing close links to the EU in order to be free of its rules — was already going to rattle the economy.

“With corona, it’s going to be a double shock for businesses,” the source said

The virus adds another layer of difficulty to an already complex negotiation, where, at the end of the first round in March, the two sides could only note their disagreements rather than make concrete progress.

London is trying to negotiate a series of packages in different domains including fishing, goods, aviation, justice and energy. But EU leaders want a single overarching accord.

The thorny problem of fishing rights — deeply important to several key EU states, notably France — could derail the whole process, according to some in Brussels.

This week’s round of talks are to last until Friday. Barnier and Frost were scheduled to open the proceedings on Monday before their teams start technical sector-by-sector negotiations on Tuesday.


#Newsworthy…

MPs set to vote on Boris Johnson Brexit deal today.

MPs will vote on Friday on whether to back the prime minister’s plan for the UK to leave the EU on 31 January.

The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill would also ban the government from extending the transition period – where the UK is out of the EU but follows many of its rules – past 2020.

Boris Johnson said it would end “delay and rancour” and provide “certainty”.

Opponents say the bill leaves the UK’s future uncertain, and agreeing a trade deal with the EU could take many years.

But the government insists one can be in place by the end the transition period.

The withdrawal bill, which would implement the Brexit agreement the prime minister reached with the EU in October, was introduced in Thursday’s Queen’s Speech, setting out the government’s priorities for the next year.

MPs will have their first chance to debate it in the House of Commons on Friday at its second reading – a vote on its general principles.

With the Conservatives having won an 80-seat majority at last week’s general election, the bill is expected to pass easily, before it moves on to further scrutiny by MPs and the House of Lords.

MPs have been given a further three days – 7, 8 and 9 January – to continue their debate in the Commons.

The government says it will get it into law in time for the 31 January Brexit deadline.

There are changes to the previous bill, which was backed by the Commons in October, but withdrawn by the government after MPs rejected a three-day deadline for getting it through Parliament.

The changes include:

Legally prohibiting the government from extending the transition period – during which a trade deal between the UK and EU will be discussed – beyond 31 December 2020
Allowing more UK courts to reconsider European Court of Justice rulings that have been retained in UK law after Brexit
Requiring ministers to report annually to Parliament on disputes with the EU under the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement
Repealing spent legislation that “now serves no purpose”
The bill also loses a previous clause on strengthening workers’ rights.

The government now says it will deal with this issue in a separate piece of legislation, but the TUC has warned that the change will help “drive down” working conditions.

The Queen outlined the government’s agenda at Thursday’s State Opening of Parliament

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has described Mr Johnson’s decision to limit the length of the transition period to 11 months as “reckless and irresponsible”, adding that the prime minister is “prepared to put people’s jobs at risk”.

And Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told MPs that Mr Johnson had “deliberately resurrected the threat of no-deal” at the end of 2020 by making this move.

He said: “We understand that people are desperate to move on. That does not mean we will just accept the prime minister’s reckless approach on how it’s done.”

Ahead of Friday’s debate, Mr Johnson said: “We will deliver on the promise we made to the people and get the Brexit vote wrapped up for Christmas.”

An earlier withdrawal agreement – reached between previous Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU – was rejected three times by MPs.

But Mr Johnson’s general election result, giving him a comfortable majority in the Commons, means it should be far easier to get his version ratified.

He said: “After years of delay and rancour in Parliament, we will deliver certainty and hard-working businesses and people across this country will have a firm foundation on which to plan for the future.

“Next year will be a great year for our country – the year we get Brexit done, boost NHS funding, invest in infrastructure and level up access to opportunity and prosperity across our great nation.”

In the 2016 referendum, the UK voted by 52% to 48% to leave the EU. But the subsequent difficulties in getting Brexit through Parliament have caused gridlock at Westminster.

The result of the Commons vote on the bill is expected at about 15:00 GMT on Friday.

#Newsworthy…

Lying politicians should be made to fall on their knees – Boris Johnson.

…to account in a democratic fashion.

Conservative leader Boris Johnson has said lying politicians should “go on their knees”.

He was responding to a question from the audience who asked what should happen to politicians who lie.

Jeremy Corbyn said that politicians should be held to account in a democratic fashion.

Mr Johnson was also asked about the resignation of the UK diplomat in charge of Brexit at the British embassy in the US.

She resigned earlier in the day, saying she could no longer “peddle half-truths” on behalf of political leaders she did not “trust”.

#Newsworthy…