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Britain to change law, no-deal Brexit looms

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will change the law to guarantee the Brexit transition phase is not extended, setting up a new cliff-edge for a no-deal split with the European Union (EU) at the end of next year.

London

BRITISH Prime Minister Boris Johnson will change the law to guarantee the Brexit transition phase is not extended, setting up a new cliff-edge for a no-deal split with the European Union (EU) at the end of next year.

He wants to deliver his election promise to ratify a new free-trade agreement with the bloc before the bridging period maintaining the status quo runs out on Dec 31, 2020.

EU leaders have warned it is highly unlikely that negotiators will be able to complete the kind of deal Mr Johnson wants, which he has modelled on Canada's agreement with the EU, in the 11 months between Brexit day on Jan 31 and the December deadline. The EU-Canada deal took seven years to finalise.

Mr Johnson's gambit is the latest sign of intent as he seeks to force through Britain's divorce from the 28-nation bloc without further delay.

After winning a big majority in last week's general election, the prime minister now has the power to do as he pleases on Brexit, without fear Parliament will thwart his plans.

He will start by putting the divorce part of the Brexit deal to a vote, potentially as soon as this Friday. Once MPs have ratified that, the UK will leave the EU by Jan 31 next year.

The planned legislation will include legal text to prevent the government extending the transition period and delaying the day Britain stops being subject to EU laws, even if no new trade terms have been secured in time, an official said.

The law would potentially force the UK out of the EU without a new deal in place, threatening tariffs and disruption to trade.

As well as ministers being blocked from extending the transition period, the House of Commons will not get a vote on the issue, another official said.

When ministers were trying to get support for the Brexit deal before the election, they agreed to give MPs a vote on whether a longer transition period would be needed. But the government's new majority means such concessions are not necessary, the official said.

Mr Johnson's plan to give priority to delivering Brexit was also reflected in appointments to his Cabinet, announced Monday evening, which put the emphasis on continuity as he seeks to minimise disruption before the Jan 31 deadline.

Nicky Morgan, who had announced she was standing down as an MP before the election, has been handed a seat in the unelected House of Lords so she can stay on as Culture Secretary.

In the only other senior appointment on Monday evening, Simon Hart became Welsh Secretary in a move forced on Mr Johnson after the resignation of Alun Cairns from the post in November. BLOOMBERG