23:55 GMT24 October 2020
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    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit withdrawal bill has been put before the House of Commons today, before potentially being passed through the House of Lords, where it could face tougher scrutiny from influential pro-remain peers.

    But will Johnson realistically be able to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU in just one year, given the recent comments from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, which suggested quite the opposite? Dr Ben Williams, a lecturer in politics and political theory at the University of Salford, has evaluated the possibility of trade negotiations.

    Sputnik: Will the UK be able to negotiate a trade agreement with the EU by the end of 2020?

    Dr Ben Williams: I’m not quite sure who is telling the truth here, because the British government seem to be saying that the deal can be done within the year that they’ve set and they’ve said that all along, although they haven’t gone into great detail about how they are going to do it.

    As a response to that; the EU is indicating that actually, it’s such a complex process that’s it’s actually practically impossible to be done in that time scale and I think the new commissioner said as much when she was in London yesterday.

    There are some who will believe the EU’s version of events, and there are some people who will believe the British government’s, although it is true that during the general election did not go into great detail about how they were going to do this, they had a slogan about getting Brexit done, but they didn’t really go into great detail about the practicalities of getting it done and I think that’s where people now might be starting to ask some questions.

    Sputnik: Is Boris Johnson really willing to sever ties with Brussels under WTO rules?

    Dr Ben Williams: We’ll you could argue that it’s a form of brinkmanship, but Boris Johnson has indicated in the past that if the deal isn’t right; he will walk away and a number of Conservatives have said over the years, including Theresa May, that no deal is better than a bad deal, so if you believe the rhetoric then you have to say, that there are people in the government and there are people of this view, that there are people who would be willing to go without a deal.

    There are elements of the government machine who see real risks in no deal. If we’re weighing up the risks of whether to go for a no-deal, it would be a massive gamble; nobody really knows the answer, that’s the real truth.

    There is quite a bit of expert opinion that suggests it would be a problem and that there would be economic repercussions, and of course, that’s the real problem for the government if there were severe repercussions; they would be punished.

    I actually think they are willing to go on the no-deal route, but I think they are also trying to push the EU into being more flexible by threatening to walk away.

    Sputnik: Could Labour regain their popularity with the British electorate if the Conservatives fail to deliver on their general election pledges?

    Dr Ben Williams: There is an opportunity for Labour. Obviously, they’ve had a pretty big setback in the last few months, the campaign didn’t go as well as planned and the election result was obviously very poor, but there is opportunity because Brexit is such a touch and go kind of process, it could go very well, which would mean that the Conservatives could be in power for years and years, but there is a real risk that it could go very badly wrong.

    If things don’t go well and the economy starts to worsen and if we leave without a deal and there are major negatives; then yes, under a different leader Labour could arguably be in a position of saying “ I told you so”, because Labour was certainly more cautious regarding Brexit in 2019 and was definitely warning about some of these problems potentially happening, so you could say they were punished at the polls for that, but in the longer term it could prove to be something that they will actually benefit from.

    Labour will have to wait now, but as a long term political game; there is certainly an opportunity with the new leader if the Brexit process does not go according to plan.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    House of Lords, Boris Johnson, gamble, no-deal Brexit, U.K
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