Even if the United Kingdom exits the European Union (EU) on January 31st in a so-called "Brexit," that will kick off a new period of negotiation during a transition period in which governments and private businesses get all their ducks in a row before ultimately breaking away from European customs union, but Boris Johnson wants to make sure the transition period also comes with a hard deadline.
Boris Johnson pleaded with politicians and the public to give the nation a break from talking about the Brexit after an intense election, but Johnson's government has introduced a proposal to make it illegal for the Brexit transition period to be extended by any length of time.
The post-Brexit transition period - due to conclude in December 2020 - can currently be extended by mutual agreement for up to two years.
But an amended Withdrawal Agreement Bill the Commons is set to vote on this week would rule out any extension.
The PM told MPs it would put an end to years of "deadlock, dither and delay".
As the House of Commons assembled for the first time since the election, Boris Johnson said his priority was to "get Brexit done".
Boris Johnson’s plan to make it illegal for the government to extend the Brexit transition period beyond 11 months has been described as “strange” by Ireland’s deputy prime minister, as Brussels prepared to limit the scope of the coming negotiations.
Simon Coveney said it amounted to the “UK deciding to tie itself in terms of options” while the director general for trade in the European commission, Sabine Weyand, said the ambition of any deal would need to be pared back.
When the UK leaves the EU on 31 January, difficult and complex negotiations over the future relationship will begin. The country will remain in the single market and customs union until 31 December 2020 with an extension of the arrangement permitted for up to two years if it is both found necessary and agreed before 1 July.
A hard deadline to complete negotiations during the transition period is not quite the same as a deadline to exit the European Union in a "hard Brexit," but it's the same in spirit.
Nothing can prevent British parliament and Boris Johnson or a future prime minister from changing the law again to allow another extension, but what this does is set up another year-long round of brinkmanship that will weigh on the British economy as much as the prospect of a hard Brexit did. Britain could still see a "hard Brexit" if the transition period does not lead to favorable terms for British businesses and employers.
Of course, whatever terms are agreed to during the transition period will never be as good as simply remaining in the European Union and its customs union which grants free movement and access to over 500 million consumers.
Assuming a Brexit will be triggered on January 31st, there's going to be a period of time in which Britain has theoretically dropped out of the union but not technically. I expect Johnson and members of his administration will point toward the news and say 'see -- things aren't really that bad' even if the UK has not actually broken away from the union yet as far as trade law and administration is concerned.