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Johnson to legislate to block further Brexit delay

Ministers will re-work the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to prohibit any extension of the transition period beyond the end of 2020.

Boris Johnson, leaving Downing Street, will legislate to prevent a Brexit extension (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Boris Johnson, leaving Downing Street, will legislate to prevent a Brexit extension (Jonathan Brady/PA)

By Gavin Cordon and Harriet Line, PA Political Staff

Boris Johnson is to legislate to prevent MPs extending the Brexit transition period beyond the end of 2020, Government sources have said.

Ministers have re-worked the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) – due to come before the Commons this week – to “legally prohibit” any further extension.

Under current plans, Mr Johnson intends to end Britain’s EU membership on January 31, with an implementation period to run to the end of 2020 while the Government negotiates a free trade deal with Brussels.

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Boris Johnson poses for photographs as he welcomes the newly elected Conservative MPs to Westminster (Leon Neal/PA)

However, key EU figures – including chief negotiator Michel Barnier – have expressed scepticism that a deal can be agreed in time, raising the fresh prospect of a no-deal break unless there is an extension.

A No 10 source said: “Last week the public voted for a government that would get Brexit done and move this country forward – and that’s exactly what we intend to do starting this week.

“Our manifesto made clear that we will not extend the implementation period and the new Withdrawal Agreement Bill will legally prohibit Government agreeing to any extension.”

The Prime Minister repeatedly promised during the election campaign that he would not seek any extension to the transition period.

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Boris Johnson with newly-elected Conservative MPs at the Palace of Westminster (Leon Neal/PA)

The commitment was instrumental in persuading Nigel Farage not to stand Brexit Party candidates in Conservative held seats.

However, after Mr Johnson was returned with an 80 majority, there was speculation that he could use his strengthened position to seek an extension if more time was needed to get a trade deal.

The latest move would appear to have put paid to that.

The WAB is due to be brought before the Commons on Friday – and could receive its first reading and be voted on at second reading in one day, if the Speaker agrees.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We plan to start the process before Christmas and will do so in the proper constitutional way in discussion with the Speaker.”

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Nicky Morgan is to carry on as Culture Secretary despite stepping down as an MP (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Mr Johnson meanwhile has been accused of showing “two fingers to democracy” after announcing Nicky Morgan will carry on as Culture Secretary, despite her quitting the Commons.

No 10 said the former MP for Loughborough would be made a life peer and would answer questions in the House of Lords.

There were signs that her appointment may only be temporary pending a full-scale Cabinet reshuffle expected in February.

But it still drew a furious response from opposition MPs, with former shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant saying it “stinks”.

“You abandon your constituents, eschew the tough work of representing a constituency but remain in the Cabinet. That really is two fingers up to democracy,” he said.

His fellow Labour MP Jo Stevens said it was “absolutely disgraceful” MPs would not be able to scrutinise or challenge her on the performance of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The Liberal Democrats’ culture spokeswoman Layla Moran said the appointment showed why reform of the Lords was needed, while the SNP’s Pete Wishart accused the Tories of showing “disdain for democracy”.

“It seems as though the Tories don’t even need to bother standing in an election and be held to account by the public in order to keep the perks of ministerial posts,” he said.

The decision to keep her on appeared to surprise even the now Baroness Morgan, who had been widely expected to be replaced in a mini-reshuffle on Mr Johnson’s top team.

“Well it turns out that leaving the Cabinet is harder than leaving the EU!” she tweeted.

Announcing her decision to stand down as an MP in October, she cited the abuse she had received and impact on her family life as her reasons for leaving the Commons.

Earlier, Mr Johnson announced that the junior Cabinet Office minister Simon Hart had been promoted to Welsh Secretary.

The MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire replaces Alan Cairns, who was forced to stand down at the start of the election campaign over his links to an aide accused of sabotaging a rape trial.

PA

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