What happens if Boris doesn’t get an EU trade deal by next Christmas?

We look at the Brexit promises in the Conservative manifesto

Montage by Brexit Facts4EU.Org

Looking at the the EU’s history, the Prime Minister’s promises will be very challenging

The Conservative manifesto published yesterday confirms Boris Johnson’s pledges on Brexit.

In this article we look at the key points about Brexit in the Conservative manifesto. In particular we consider the essential question: What happens if Mr Johnson does not negotiate a trade deal with the EU by next Christmas, when the Transition Period is supposed to end?

Brexit Facts4EU.Org Summary

Conservative manifesto on Brexit, 2019

  • Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration parliamentary motion before Christmas
  • Partial 'exit' date: 31 Jan 2020
  • End of Transition Period – no extensions - 31 Dec 2020
  • But what happens if there is no trade deal with the EU by then?

Mr Johnson’s 3 key Brexit promises to the electorate

(The text in bold is exactly how it appears in the manifesto, which you can read here.)

“If we elect a majority of Conservative MPs to Parliament, we will start putting our deal through Parliament before Christmas and we will leave the European Union in January.

“Our deal… puts the whole country on a path to a new free trade agreement with the EU. This will be a new relationship based on free trade and friendly cooperation, not on the EU’s treaties or EU law. There will be no political alignment with the EU. We will keep the UK out of the single market, out of any form of customs union, and end the role of the European Court of Justice.

“We will negotiate a trade agreement next year – one that will strengthen our Union – and we will not extend the implementation period beyond December 2020.

The commitment not to extend the implementation (‘Transition’) period beyond 31 December 2020 is key. Taken with the Conservatives’ other pledges above, it means that Mr Johnson will have just 11 months from 31 January to negotiate a trade deal with the EU.

The EU has never done a free trade agreement in as little as 11 months

Never. Not even close. In fact many of the EU’s trade deals have taken over 11 years.

Tomorrow we will publish a report contrasting the EU's latest trade deal which it announced on Firday, with a trade deal between two 'normal' countries.

So what happens if there’s no EU trade deal by 31 Dec 2020?

If there has been no trade deal agreed with the EU by the end of the Transition Period at the end of next year, the Conservative manifesto offers no guidance. There is no mention of “No deal is better than a bad deal”, as there was in the Conservatives’ 2017 manifesto.

Equally there is no mention of the use of the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which might allow the UK and EU to carry on trading without tariffs whilst a trade deal is being finalised.

The manifesto simply does not address this key question at all.

Assuming the EU is incapable or unwilling to agree a trade deal in record time, and without an agreement on the GATT article XXIV provisions, and if Mr Johnson keeps to his promises, then the UK would exit the EU fully on WTO trading terms on 31 December 2020.


It is perfectly possible, and in fact quite likely, that Mr Johnson does not wish to declare his hand at this stage. It may be that he knows full well that a free trade deal with the EU is impossible by Christmas 2020.

Interestingly the manifesto refers to negotiating “a trade agreement next year”. A trade agreement is not the same as a free trade agreement. It could be that Mr Johnson and his team are planning to use the GATT XXIV provisions to continue trading with the EU on zeros tariffs after Dec 2020 whilst a proper free trade agreement is thrashed out over several years. This can only be done if both sides agree.

The other alternative is that the trading relationship with the EU will revert to normal WTO terms.

The one path which would be wholly unacceptable is if Mr Johnson goes back on his promise, and does indeed extend the Transition Period beyond Dec 2020, leaving the United Kingdom in the state of being an EU colony with no voice and no veto until the end of 2021 or 2022.

Our consistent position for almost four years has been that the EU would never negotiate a sensible trade deal with the UK, as the main decision-makers in the EU are driven by extremist, superstatist, ideological obsessions rather than by the interests of the ordinary citizens of the EU27 countries.

Please donate to keep us going, using the quick and secure links below. As ever, the above article contains the results of serious and time-consuming research from official sources, and you simply do not get this information elsewhere. Thank you.

Tomorrow we will publish a report contrasting the EU's latest trade deal which it announced on Firday, with a trade deal between two 'normal' countries. Don't miss it!

[ Sources: Conservative Party manifesto | EU Commission Trade Directorate ] Politicians and journalists can contact us for details, as ever.

Brexit Facts4EU.Org, 25 Nov 2019

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