After the December general election, you’d be forgiven for using the festive period as a post-traumatic recovery period. Faced with five more years of the boot, you’ve probably been self-medicating with triangle Quality Streets, and limiting your political engagement to Hugh Grant lauding David Beckham’s right foot, or David Beckham’s left foot... come to that.
However, as we recover from Christmas hibernation, the cogs of Westminister are beginning to whirl. This week, Parliament reconvenes and the Brexit process starts up again. What? I hear you cry. Aren’t we done with that? I am deeply sorry to tell you that no, actually, we are not done with Brexit. Far from it. The Conservatives may have parroted their “Get Brexit Done” slogan a billion times, but seeing as the UK must negotiate entirely new trade deals as part of an unprecedented political transition, this isn't going to be over soon. Step one of Brexit (the withdrawal period) may come to an end this month, but step two (the transition period) is just around the corner, and boy is it going to be complicated.
So, where are we now? Before Christmas, MPs backed the second reading of the withdrawal bill or "Brexit bill" – which basically makes us leaving the EU before the 31st of January 2020 law. After further scrutiny and opportunity to add amendments, a third reading of this withdrawal bill will take place this week – and with an increased majority, Johnson is hoping to get it through Parliament in the three days.
After that, the next step of the Brexit process begins. This is the transition period – the time during which Britain will try to negotiate future trade deals with the EU. An amendment of the withdrawal bill states that even if we don't come to an agreement by the deadline of the 31st of December 2020, no extension can be made to the transition period, making a no-deal exit more likely. The clock is ticking – it's just like a fun game show countdown, except if you lose, you get total financial meltdown and decades of instability and if you win, you kind of lose anyway!
Ultimately, the hope for the Tories is that the Brexit negotiations during the transition period will become more of a behind-the-scenes trade conversation, one that isn’t the centre or cause of a divided nation. Just some nice, simple chats on numerous complicated bilateral trade deals between 27 countries, all with competing priorities.
Thank God it's all over soon!