/Can Brexit be stopped?

Can Brexit be stopped?

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at 10 Downing Street on January 8, 2020 in London.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at 10 Downing Street. (Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Last week Brexit passed a major milestone when MPs voted in favour of Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill, allowing it to clear the final Commons hearing and pass on the House of Lords.

This means that the Brexit Bill is on track to become law in time for the UK to leave the European Union by the agreed deadline of January 31 2020, which has come to be known as Brexit Day.

But with less than two weeks to go now until the Brexit deadline and with 53 per cent people still in support of the UK remaining in the EU at the time of writing according to whatukthinks.org, can anything be done at this stage to stop Brexit?

Can Brexit be stopped?

Despite a campaign by People’s Vote UK for a second referendum and then a final say on the referendum, the fate of Brexit is out of the general public’s hands.

The only way Brexit could be stopped is if the Prime Minister and UK Parliament decided to revoke Article 50.

Article 50 is the agreement also known as the Lisbon Treaty which sets out what happens when a country leaves the EU. Theresa May triggered Article 50 in March 2017 and began the UK’s two year countdown to leaving the EU.

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The European Court of Justice ruling last year did confirm that the UK could revoke Article 50, but with Boris Johnson’s clear: ‘Let’s get Brexit done’ message and the fact that the Brexit Bill has now passed in the House of Commons, the chance of this happening is slim to none.

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Those standing in the way of Brexit now are the peers in the House of Lords – many of whom are staunch remainers.

However, due to the large majority win by the Conservatives in the December 2019 General Election, the EU Withdrawal Bill, or Brexit Bill as it is commonly known, is expected to pass through the House of Lords without any significant changes next week.

When this happens, then the Bill will become law within a matter of days once it has received Royal Assent from the Queen.

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Former Dutch foreign minister and current vice president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans said at the end of last year that the UK is ‘always’ welcome back to the EU after Brexit, so for staunch Remainers, there may be some comfort and hope to be found in his words.

‘We’re not going away and you will always be welcome to come back,’ Timmermans wrote in a letter first published in The Guardian in December 2019.

Frans Timmermans, European Commission Vice-President.
Frans Timmermans penned a letter to the UK about Brexit. (Picture: Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

What happens after Brexit Day?

After Brexit Day on January 31 2020, trade talks will begin with the EU and the UK will have until June 30 2020 to agree a deal or ask to extend the Brexit transition period.

During this time, the UK will have no members in the European Parliament and will be independent, but will effectively remain in the EU’s customs union and single market until a trade deal is agreed.

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If the Brexit transition period is not extended beyond June 30, the UK will have until the end of the year to agree a trade deal.

As well as a trade deal, the UK must also establish how it will work in the future with EU countries when it comes to security and issues of law enforcement.

If, by the December 31 deadline, a trade deal has not been agreed between the UK and the EU then Britain will exit the Brexit transition period without a deal and will have to leave the EU’s customs union and single market.

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Boris Johnson has insisted that a trade deal with the EU can be agreed before the transition period expires at the end of this year.

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