UK Government approach to the withdrawal from the European Union under Johnson administration

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Publication Date July 2019-
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Feature bringing together reports and analyses on the approach adopted by the government led by Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom when it came to the country's withdrawal from the European Union (also known as Brexit).

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Boris Johnson became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 24 July 2019, following a leadership contest within the UK Conservative Party. As a result of the campaign led by Mr Johnson as a leadership candidate, the cabinet adopted as its policy to leave the European Union (EU) by 31 October 2019, in whichever conditions. The Prime Minister stated the intention to engage in negotiations with the EU for an alternative to the so-called 'backstop' mechanism designed under the previous cabinet to guarantee frictionless trade in the island of Ireland, and included in an Withdrawal Agreement, which faced opposition in Parliament for months. Even so, many analysts warned against the increasing inevitability of a scenario in which the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU without an agreement (also known as no-deal scenario).

Throughout August, the Government announced the UK was no longer going to attend non-essential EU-level meetings to focus on Brexit preparations in the country. The country's home secretary also warned that freedom of movement would end the next day following withdrawal in case of a no-deal scenario, sparking criticism and some panic among EU citizens living in the United Kingdom.

In a controversial decision, it was announced on 28 August that the Government was seeking the prorogation (or suspension) of the Parliament in September and October 2019. The proposal was quickly approved by the Queen. The move was widely interpreted as a way to make it harder for Parliament - known to feature a majority against a no-deal scenario - to act against the cabinet's policy regarding Brexit, as also sparked a number of protests on the streets across the country.

On 3 September, members of Parliament (MPs) voted to take control of House of Commons business - a number of Conservative MPs backed the proposal and were thrown out of the party as a result. The move would allow MPs to put forward a bill aimed at forcing Mr Johnson to ask to delay the withdrawal from the EU until at least 31 January 2020 in order to avoid a no-deal exit. The government also lost its working majority in Parliament, following a defection from the Conservative Party to the Liberal Democrats. On the following day, the Parliament approved the bill ordering the Prime Minister to request a further extension beyond 31 October in case of a no-deal scenario. The Government also put forward a proposal for a general election to be held before the end of October, which was rejected by the House of Commons over fears it could lead to a no-deal scenario.

On 16 September, Mr Johnson met the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker for the first time to take stock of the technical talks between the EU and the UK and to discuss the next steps. Sources from both sides had contradicting views on the state of negotiations towards alternatives to the already agreed Withdrawal Agreement. Following a meeting with Luxembourg's Prime Minister on that same day, Mr Johnson refused to attend a joint press conference due to noisy protests held outside the venue of the meeting.

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Commentary and Analysis
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BBC News: Parliament suspension 2019
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Politico, 18/08/2019: UK government no-deal Brexit fears revealed in full
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Politico, 20/08/2019: UK officials to withdraw from EU meetings from September 1
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EurActiv, 28/08/2019: Queen approves Johnson’s request to suspend UK parliament in new twist of Brexit drama
The Economist, 29/08/2019: Boris Johnson suspends Parliament, causing uproar
EurActiv, 29/08/2019: Johnson sparks fury in UK after suspension of parliament, EU stays cool
Politico, 31/08/2019: Protests across the UK over parliament suspension
Politico, 01/09/2019: Michel Barnier: No alternative to backstop until withdrawal deal ratified
EurActiv, 02/09/2019: Johnson mulls snap election as MPs seek to block no-deal Brexit
Politico, 02/09/2019: UK MPs publish plan to prevent no-deal Brexit
Politico, 02/09/2019: Boris Johnson’s election threat to would-be rebels
The Guardian, 03/09/2019: Boris Johnson to seek election after rebel Tories deliver Commons defeat
BBC News, 04/09/2019: PM in new battle after Commons vote defeat
Deutsche Welle, 04/09/2019: Boris Johnson suffers major defeat in no-deal Brexit vote
Reuters, 04/09/2019: Johnson bids for election as opponents seek to stop no-deal Brexit
BBC News, 04/09/2019: Boris Johnson's call for general election rejected by MPs
EurActiv, 05/09/2019: Johnson to hold new vote on snap election, as brother quits over Brexit strategy
Politico, 05/09/2019: Boris Johnson inches closer to a Brexit election gamble
Politico, 05/09/2019: Boris Johnson would rather be ‘dead in a ditch’ than delay Brexit
Deutsche Welle, 16/09/2019: No Brexit breakthrough as Johnson meets Juncker, EU says
France24, 16/09/2019: 'We need more than just words,' EU official says after Brexit talks

UK Government: Prime Minister's statement on 2 September 2019
European Commission: Press Release, 16/09/2019: Statement by the European Commission following the working lunch between President Jean-Claude Juncker and Prime Minister Boris Johnson
UK Government: PM meeting with President of the European Commission: 16 September 2019

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