BRUSSELS (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a sweeping election victory on a promise to “Get Brexit done”, but a reality check awaits for voters hoping that the messy divorce is finally over.
It’s just the beginning.
Johnson should now be able to secure parliamentary approval for the withdrawal deal he struck with the European Union in October so Brexit happens on Jan. 31.
Britain then goes into a transition period until the end of 2020. Time enough, says Johnson, to negotiate a new relationship with the EU, including on trade.
But EU diplomats and officials say there could be many potholes along the way, and Britain could still find itself at the cliff edge of a no-deal exit one year from now.
“It will be very complicated. It’s about an array of relations, in trade, in fishing and cooperation in security and foreign policy,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told an EU summit news conference on Friday.
“Our biggest hurdle will be that we need to sort out these issues very quickly.”
EXTENSION NOW MORE LIKELY
The EU hopes to start trade talks with Britain by March, leaving just 10 months to strike a deal and get it approved by London and the EU, including member states’ parliaments.
Trade agreements with the EU typically take years to complete, and few in Brussels believe the transition period will be long enough to seal a deal with Britain.
The transition period can be prolonged by one or two years but London must request an extension by the end of June.
With a large parliamentary majority, Johnson may pay less heed to hardline Brexiteers in his party than he did before the election and renege on his pre-election pledge not to extend the transition period beyond 2020.