Boris Johnson slaps down Brexit Secretary over suggestion EU transition period could run until 2022

Posted On: 
16th September 2019

Downing Street has distanced itself from a suggestion by Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay that the UK could still be following EU rules in 2022.

Boris Johnson's office distanced itself from the suggestion of a longer transition period floated by Stephen Barclay.

Number 10 made clear that Boris Johnson was "not going to" extend the current Brexit transition period, which is due to run until the end of 2020 if a fresh divorce deal is agreed with Brussels.

Under the terms of the withdrawal agreement thrashed out by Theresa May, Britain would maintain close ties with the EU until December next year, despite no longer being a member.

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The point of the "implementation period" is to allow businesses to fully prepare for life outside the bloc.

But Mr Barclay said on Sunday that Britain could stay in the transition arrangement until the end of 2022 to allow ministers to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

He said: “It is the case that operationally these issues do not apply until the end of the implementation period, which is December 2020 or one or two years later by mutual agreement."

But that idea was rapidly shot down by Boris Johnson's official spokesman on Monday, as Number 10 made clear that the Prime Minister would not seek an extension to the 2020 deadline.

"We are not extending the implementation period, in the event of a deal, beyond December 2020," he said.

He added: "It would require the Prime Minister to request an extension to the implementation period and he's not going to do that."

If the UK leaves the EU on 31 October, that would leave just 14 months for alternative arrangements to the Northern Ireland backstop to be up and running for 1 January, 2021.

But an interim report published by the Alternative Arrangements Commission - backed by MPs Nicky Morgan and Greg Hands - in June said replacements for the plan to avoid a hard Irish could take up to three years to finalise.


The rebuke for Mr Barclay came as Mr Johnson began his first face-to-face talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Speaking ahead of the meeting in Luxembourg, a Downing Street source said Mr Johnson would tell Mr Juncker that he will "reject any delay offered" and take Britain out of the bloc without a deal at the end of next month if no fresh agreement is reached.

The move comes in spite of MPs passing a law ordering him to extend Article 50 - the formal process which began Britain's EU exit - if he cannot reach a deal by mid-October.

Mr Johnson meanwhile wrote in the Telegraph: "If we can make enough progress in the next few days, I intend to go to that crucial summit on Oct 17, and finalise an agreement that will protect the interests of business and citizens on both sides of the Channel, and on both sides of the border in Ireland.

"I believe passionately that we can do it, and I believe that such an agreement is in the interests not just of the UK but also of our European friends."