Is there enough time to get Brexit trade deals done?
By Joe Harker
Boris Johnson has been adamant that a trade deal between the UK and EU can be completed by the end of the year.
He's so sure of himself that he has amended the Brexit bill to rule out extending the transition period beyond December, though his majority is so strong that he could just overturn it later on.
However, the prime minister has reportedly insisted that there is no chance of him extending the transition period even if he needs to. He failed to get Brexit done on October 31 despite repeatedly promising to, so he's desperate not to mess it up again.
Ursula von der Leyen, the new European Commission president, said it would be "impossible" to get a full Brexit trade deal done by the end of 2020.
The UK and EU will have 11 months to strike a trade deal and it's not enough time to get one done that covers every area of the economy. Since Johnson has boxed himself in on the timetable it would appear as though there's not enough time to get everything completed.
If a trade deal isn't secured then something resembling a no deal Brexit is back on the table and von der Leyen's warning that "you cannot expect to agree every single aspect of our new partnership" in less than a year makes that a real concern.
Trade deals take years to complete and a comprehensive agreement between the UK and EU that gets done in 11 months is considered fanciful by most.
Failing to get a trade deal done and refusing to extend the transition period means defaulting to WTO rules and being hit with damaging tariffs.
The Counter Claim:
Brexit secretary Steve Barclay says the UK and EU had agreed in the political declaration to get a trade deal done by the end of the year and insisted he was "confident" it would happen.
Back in the real world the actual answer is that a trade deal doesn't have to touch upon every area of the economy. A rushed, bare bones trade deal could be good enough and the details could be sorted out later.
A so called "low alignment deal" would be a mess to sort out but it could be done in the 11 month timeframe.
It would be a deal that left the UK "distant" from the EU and facing several barriers to trade, but not the disastrous no deal scenario.
11 months is not enough time to get a proper trade deal done but it ought to be enough to rush something through which might be built on later.
The UK will officially leave the EU on January 31, though the transition period will begin and continue until the end of the year.
If the UK comes to the end of the transition period without getting a trade deal then it
The British government has stopped planning for a no deal Brexit, though the EU haven't in case a trade deal isn't struck by the end of the year.