Some breaking news from the Guardian:

The Tory Brexiter John Baron told the BBC this morning that ministers like Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, and Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, have told him that, if the trade talks with the EU do not produce a deal by the end of next year, the UK would leave the transition and trade with the EU on no-deal (ie, WTO) terms.

He also said a similar assurance in public from Boris Johnson would help to persuade hardline Brexiters (ie, the core of the European Research Group) to back the deal. [...]

Under the government’s current plan the UK would leave the EU legally on 31 October but then remain in a transition until December 2020, during which most aspects of EU law would continue to apply.

Clearly the subsequent talks can fail, but does this mean the UK would essentially be in the same position as doing a no-deal Brexit?

  • I think the NI situation in the WA would still apply. But I don't have an opinion from the AG to back me up. Though I think it is coming.
    – Jontia
    Oct 18, 2019 at 14:51

1 Answer 1


File it under figure of speech.

If the withdrawal agreement (WA) passes, three things happen:

  1. A bunch of thorny issues get settled for good as laid out in the WA -- including citizens' right, the UK paying its commitments, Northern Ireland, etc.

  2. The UK as a whole enters into a transition period, which if memory serves is currently set to end in December 2020 and can be renewed. During the transition period, EU laws continue to apply like they do now.

  3. Trade talks begin between the UK and the EU to work out a permanent relationship.

One key area where May's deal differs from Johnson's is what happens if trade talks fail by the end of the transition period:

  • Under May's deal, the backstop (which the EU intended to apply to NI only) would have applied to the whole of the UK, and continued to do so until talks conclude. One qualm that hard core Brexiters had was that this meant the EU could "trap" the UK to stay under EU law forever.

  • Under Johnson's deal, a "backstop" type of arrangement (which if I'm not mistaking is not called that) would apply to NI only, and GB would fallback to trading with the EU on WTO terms with specific arrangements in place for NI as agreed in the WA.

So, in a sense, it's kind of a "no deal" thing, if by "no deal" one means WTO trade terms with the EU. But it's not a "no deal" proper, in that it avoids the key issues that got settled in the WA. In particular citizens' rights, the withdrawal bill, and safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement.

  • 1
    It's the second bullet that's apparently irksome to the anti-no-dealers enough to have caused them to sink the timetable today (after voting for the 2nd reading) Hammond has been their exponent; his position is articulated in standard.co.uk/comment/comment/… Oct 22, 2019 at 21:40

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