EU leaders could force through Brexit next month even if Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour wins the general election on Thursday, a Brexit expert has hinted.
Boris Johnson has claimed he can “get Brexit done” by passing his “oven ready” deal through the House of Commons, if he wins a majority. Mr Corbyn has promised to negotiate a new Brexit deal with the EU and hold another referendum within six months if he wins. But Anand Menon, director of The UK in a Changing Europe think-tank, claimed that EU leaders are “worried” about the idea of another referendum.
The politics professor at King’s College London added that an increasing number of leaders are “wary” of the process dragging on any longer, three and a half years after the original vote to Leave.
Asked who EU leaders might be secretly supporting in the election, Mr Menon told Express.co.uk: “It varies to be honest. There will be some who think a Boris Johnson government can get this done.
“Those with closer relations with us in terms of trade might be a little bit 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.”
If EU leaders are worried about a referendum and the process dragging on, it is possible they may force a UK exit on the January 31 deadline, even if Mr Corybn wins.
Certain EU leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron have been reluctant to give an additional extensions to Article 50, including when Theresa May in April this year asked for another extension to October 31.
When Mr Johnson became Prime Minister, he promised he would take the UK out of the EU by the Hallowe’en deadline, but Parliament compelled him to request an extension to prevent a no deal Brexit.
Now, Mr Johnson has a deal that should pass easily through the Commons if he wins a majority.
However, Mr Corbyn is suggesting a third extension request from the bloc to allow him time to negotiate his deal and hold a referendum.
Some EU leaders would likely find this policy infuriating were the Labour veteran to actually win a majority – the odds of which are currently 1/20, according to Ladbrokes.
On the other hand, Mr Menon said some will be hoping Mr Johnson “isn’t true to his word” and that he extends the transition period.
His current timetable would have the UK completely severed from the EU by December 2020, having concluded all trade talks about their future relationship.
However, 11 months is considered a very short time for such a complex negotiation and some EU leaders are hoping he will bend on it.
Mr Menon said: “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 – partly because they’re still getting money and partly because they get longer without any disruption to trade.”
EU member states have even signalled that they won’t be forced into the fast-tracked timetable.
In a leaked document they promised to move “swiftly” to the next phase of UK negotiations, but a reference to “making the best possible use of the limited time available” has been dropped from an early version, according to The Guardian.
EU ambassadors allegedly expressed serious doubts about the 11-month time period and opposed sending this positive signal to the Prime Minister.
While the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said it would be possible to negotiate a basic free trade deal in 11 months, others were more sceptical with one senior diplomat reportedly saying 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 must be agreed with the EU before July 1, 2020.
Some diplomats are counting on Mr Johnson to go back on his word, encouraged by earlier backtracks such as his compromise on a border down the Irish Sea and his “do or die” pledge to leave the EU in 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 die in a ditch; he didn’t die in a ditch, but he accepted to go beyond October31.
“It is not unlikely that there could be an extension of the transition period.”