SOME EU leaders will be hoping Boris Johnson is not true to his word on Brexit, according to an EU expert.
The Prime Minister, who has just won a landslide general election, has promised the country to “get Brexit done” by January 31. By this he means pass his Withdrawal Agreement through the House of Commons – but if and when it is passed, a transition period will start, during which he must negotiate the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU. This is likely to present numerous obstacles and plenty of uncertainty about the UK’s future.
His current timetable for this would have negotiations concluded and the UK to be completely severed from the EU by December 2020.
However, 11 months is considered a very short time for such a complex negotiations and some EU leaders hoping he will be willing to bend on this commitment.
Anand Menon, the director of The UK in a Changing Europe, told Express.co.uk: “I think some EU states are probably hoping that Boris Johnson isn’t true to his word and actually extends the transition as well because that suits them.
“This is partly because they’re still getting money and partly because they get longer without any disruption to trade.”
The deadline for passing a withdrawal agreement has already been delayed three times – firstly by just a few weeks by Theresa May, then until October 31 and then again by Mr Johnson to January 31, all agreed by the EU of course.
EU member states have signalled that they will not be forced into this new 11 month fast-tracked timetable.
Mrs May had initially imagined a transition period of around two years.
In a leaked document they promised to move “swiftly” to the next phase of Brexit negotiations, but a reference to “making the best possible use of the limited time available” has been dropped from an earlier version, according to The Guardian.
EU ambassadors apparently expressed doubts about the time available and opposed sending such a positive message about it to the UK government.
While the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said it would be possible to negotiate a basic free trade deal in less than a year, others were more skeptical.
One senior diplomat reportedly said he could not imagine it in his wildest dreams.
The UK can extend the Brexit transition period once for one or two years, but it would have to be agreed with the EU before July 1, 2020.
Certain diplomats are hoping Mr Johnson goes back on his word, encouraged by previous broken promises – for example, his promise to the DUP not to allow a border down the Irish Sea or his “do or die” pledge to leave the EU by October 31.
One diplomat told The Guardian that Mr Johnson had proved “more pragmatic than expected”.
They added: “Of course Boris said he would rather did in a ditch; he didn’t die in a ditch, but he did accept to go beyond October 31.
“It is not unlikely that there could be an extension of the transition period.”
Whether or not Mr Johnson extends the transition period however, some EU leaders will be relieved he won the election.
According to Mr Menon, there are an increasing number of people in the EU27 who were worried about the prospect of the second referendum and the process dragging on yet further – which is what would have happened if Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party had won.
He told Express.co.uk: “There will be some who will think a Boris Jonhson government can get this done.
“This with closer relations with us in terms of trade might be a little wary because they understand that Johnson’s Brexit deal would imply greater economic costs.
“But I think an increasing number of people want to get this done.
“An increasing number of people are wary of the process dragging on, therefore an increasing number of people are a little bit worried about the idea of a referendum.”