Boris Johnson has overcome a number of significant Brexit hurdles over recent weeks that his predecessor Theresa May failed to clear. The Prime Minister saw his Withdrawal Agreement Bill voted through the House of Commons shortly after his Conservative party scored a crushing victory in the general election, before it was also passed by the House of Lords. The Bill was then signed off by European Union figureheads Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel – the respective Presidents of the European Commission and European Parliament – before the Prime Minister himself put pen to paper on the deal.
On Wednesday, the European Parliament gave its seal of approval for the Brexit deal – three-and-a-half years after the EU referendum in June 2016.
The UK will now enter a transition period until the end of 2020, in which time Mr Johnson wants to agree a full free trade agreements with Brussels, although several EU leaders fear the short timeframe makes this impossible.
The true reason behind the tight timeframe and the desperate attempts from Mr Johnson to break free from the EU have now been revealed – and it means Britain will be in a “strange limbo state”, becoming a “third country” and a “rule taker” – at least for the next 11 months.
Nearly all EU laws will apply to the UK during the transition period with only a few exceptions.
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The Withdrawal Agreement excludes the UK from certain areas which can only apply in respect of EU member states, including rights of UK citizens to participate in European Parliament elections and member states’ local elections.
Britain can also refuse to apply new foreign policy being introduced by the EU as it is technically no longer a member state.
But all remaining EU legislation will apply during the transition period, with the UK having no power to exert authority into any policy decisions made by Brussels.
Britain will also have to remain in the single market and customs union for at least the next 11 months, and any trade deals struck with other countries won’t take effect until after the transition period has ended.
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David Glass, a consultant at law firm, Irwin Mitchell, explained: “The position is largely set out in Article 127 of the Withdrawal Agreement, which essentially states that all EU laws will continue to apply to the UK during the11-month transition period, apart from those which did not apply to the UK or from which the UK had opt-outs or special arrangements.
“In addition, the Withdrawal Agreement excludes the UK from certain areas which can only apply in respect of EU member states, including rights of UK citizens to participate in European Parliament elections and member states’ local elections.”
Victoria Hewson, head of regulatory affairs at the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank, believes the strict laws the UK must continue to follow is the reason Mr Johnson is demanding such a short transition period.
She told Express.co.uk: “The European Court of Justice will continue to have full jurisdiction but the UK will no longer be represented in the decision making bodies.
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“The UK will also have to continue to comply with the EU’s free trade agreements, and the EU has asked the other countries to continue to treat the UK as a member state under these agreements though there is no guarantee that all of them will do so.
“These are perhaps some of the reasons why the Government is determined not to extend the transition period.”
Professor Tim Bale, deputy director of The UK in a Changing Europe think tank, explained Britons won’t notice many changes during the transition period.
He added: “What they might notice – if they watch the news is there will be no UK representatives in the European Parliament or Commission, our ministers won’t attend Council meetings and the Prime Minister won’t be going to European Council summits.”
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Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman at the Bow Group think tank, warned “those who believed Boris would deliver a clean break from the EU by January 31st are likely to be disappointed”.
He told this website: “Crucially free movement will continue unabated and the Bow Group has warned this could see an additional 500,000 immigrants given full British citizenship by the time Britain closes the free movement gateway, with the likely total number granted citizenship being between four and five million – the largest ever citizenship giveaway.
“Trade with the EU will continue on current terms until a new trading agreement with the EU is agreed, or the transition period ends.
“Those who believed Boris would deliver a clean break from the EU by January 31st are likely to be disappointed.”
Brexit news: The UK is still free to negotiate and sign trade deals with any nation or bloc
But Mr Harris-Quinney explained it is not all bad news for Britons throughout the remainder of 2020, despite the country still being shackled to EU laws.
He added: “The UK will be free to negotiate and sign trade deals with any other nation or bloc, something our membership of the EU prevented us from doing.
“January 31 will also mark the beginning of a process that should have begun within months of the Brexit vote three and a half years ago – it makes our exit from the EU irreversible, and turns every remain supporter into a rejoin supporter.”