Will Brexit go ahead on January 31, 2020?

December 30, 2019

Brexit - discussions to continue in January 2020


Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, by law, was instructed by the UK parliament earlier in 2019 to approach the EU and request extension to Article 50 (Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty sets out how an EU country might voluntarily leave the union).

The recent 'Flextension' granted by the European Union set a new deadline for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union on 31st January 2020 with the provision to exit early if a withdrawal deal could be agreed and ratified.


A general election was called to break the deadlock within the UK parliament as to the next steps for Brexit. The results of the UK General Election were announced on December 12. Boris Johnson, leader of the Conservative party, was elected as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom with a House of Commons majority of 80 seats. The Conservative party are set to 'get Brexit done' as outlined in their election campaign. 

The Withdrawal Bill

With the increase in Conservative MP numbers in the House of Commons, Johnson is now determined to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement in order to meet the deadline of January 31, 2020. The bill has now cleared the second reading in the House of Commons with a majority of 124, and will be debated again on January 7, 8 and 9th 2020. Once ratified, the Transitional Period will commence after January 31, 2020 until December 31, 2020, where the UK will remain part of the Single Market and Customs Union, requiring the UK to follow EU rules and free movement of people during this period. At the end of the transition period, the question is whether a Free Trade Agreement between the UK and the EU can be agreed in a year, if not, the UK will leave the European Union and will be trading on WTO terms with the EU until any agreement is in place.
Amendments continue to be made to the current withdrawal agreement since the UK election took place: 

  • The bill now prohibits ministers asking for an extension, to ensure that departure is kept on track for January 31 – which increases a risk of having No Deal with the EU at the end of the transitional period in December 2020.
  • Worker’s rights – a separate bill will be proposed to deal with this issue.
  • The requirement for the government's negotiating position on the future relationship with the EU to be approved by Parliament is no longer included.  
  • The government's position no longer needs to be in line with the political declaration - the non-legally binding document that accompanied the withdrawal agreement and sets out aspirations for the future relationship. 
  • A clause introduced in relation to child refugees - The bill removes the requirement to agree a deal that if an unaccompanied child claims international protection in the EU, they may come to the UK if they have relatives living in the country. The new bill only requires a government minister to make a statement setting out policy on the subject within two months.

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