Experts warn the cliff edge would reappear in 2020by Alex Dean / November 15, 2019 / Leave a comment
Boris Johnson has defied expectations and secured a deal to “get Brexit done.” Moderates can get behind the PM safe in the knowledge that he no longer plans to lead Britain off the cliff edge. Indeed, he now campaigns with the agreement as his election centrepiece. Cabinet ministers on the campaign trail reassure anxious members of the public: a vote for Johnson is a vote for a great deal.
Yet there is something missing from this. Over recent weeks experts have warned that Johnson’s deal would not in fact take no deal off the table at all. That while it would remove the immediate risk, taking Britain into a standstill transition period, it would not prevent a different version of no deal down the line. This is because the deal handles withdrawal issues but does not firmly establish the future trading relationship. The transition gives us less than a year to negotiate that and the PM has insisted he will not seek to extend it.
If time does run out, what would happen? How would this “no deal two” differ from the no deal we have been warned about, and how serious would it be? Having discussed the issue with leading experts, they are increasingly worried about the risk.
Cabinet ministers of course are keen to downplay it. Home Secretary Priti Patel only this week suggested that a vote for Johnson was a vote to leave with a deal. The government insists that it can negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement before the planned transition runs out at the end of 2020. The PM has said we can have a “super Canada plus” deal, like the EU’s deal with Canada but with add-ons, ready in time.
Yet many experienced figures are far less relaxed. Indeed they are alarmed about the dangers ahead. For Philip Rycroft, formerly permanent secretary in the Brexit department, “the prime minister, having endeavoured to get out of one time trap, is walking straight into another one, because by saying ‘I’m not going to seek an extension,’ he’s putting the power over time in the hands of those he’s negotiating with.” For another former official of similar stature, “If you look at the dynamics of the coming…