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A New Year, A New EU As The UK Exits Stage Right

And so it ended, the United Kingdom’s decades-old membership of what is now the European Union, not with a bang but with a whimper. Despite four years of acrimony and debate, of negotiations and confrontations, at midnight Brussels’ time the Conservative Party government of Boris Johnson pulled off the remarkable stunt of heralding in the final part of the UK’s torturous divorce settlement with the EU, and an overall deal that is substantially poorer than the one that was offered to his more inept but less duplicitous predecessor Theresa May back in 2017. With the new year upon us most of the initial post-transition relations between Britain and Europe will now take place under the aegis of last January’s Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and December’s Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The latter of which still waits for legal revision and approval by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, with the possibility of a few hiccups along the way.

But all this is only the beginning of a new era of UK-EU relations and not the end as some Brexiteers are claiming. In truth the British have negotiated themselves into an odd sort of regulatory and mercantile purgatory in terms of their junior partnership arrangements with the EU. Formally very much outside of the European Union, in reality very much within the shadow of the bloc’s economic ambit, with all the rule-taking such a position demands. The prediction by some experts that the UK will eventually be sucked back into an “ever closer union” with Europe via a Trojan Horse of regulated trade seems more likely than not. Unless of course the Johnsonian strain of chauvinist populism remains the norm in London or gains even more ground at the ballot box. Making Brussels the continued bogeyman of Westminster politics and the scapegoat for all future ills for decades to come. In which case there may be no UK left to be absorbed back into the EU.

But for now all that politicking lies in the weeks, months and years ahead. The immediate task is the final ratification of the provisional EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement by the European institutions not to mention dozens of ancillary agreements and protocols yet to be ironed out. And, of course, we are waiting to see the impact of a now less onerous but still no less present customs border in the Irish Sea. Likely making 2021 another bumper year for Brexit (or Brexited) watchers.

12 comments on “A New Year, A New EU As The UK Exits Stage Right

  1. Terence Hewett

    People make the mistake in believing that the EU is the only game in town. It isnae. So expect:

    * UK Institutional Reform.
    * Global UK – CPTPP and CANZUK + more bilateral treaties + City of London.
    * Constitutional Reform – Federation, Quasi Federation or a Rejigged UK Constitution.

    Much of this is cross-matrixed but a reformation as radical as the 1832 Reform Act seems to be on the cards.


    • Given Johnson’s hostile comments on devolution and the regulatory land-grab by Whitehall and Downing Street in the wake of Brexit a more likely outcome is a return to constitutional centralisation. With the Tories and Tory press now requiring new enemies to focus the ire of English voters expect relations between London, Cardiff and Edinburgh to plummet.

      As for CANZUK, the non-UK parties in that term have made clear where their trading priorities lie. And not with Brexlandia.


      • Terence Hewett

        Simply outlining what the EU can expect, not its efficacy: if you want to predict the future, consult Madame Arcarti.

        It is notable that there is a 4 year get out clause which takes us past 2nd May 2024 UK GE and 5th Nov 2024 US Pres. Elections. That is when the trouble is likely to start: in 4 years the UK will have re-routed all their supply chains. You can only play the “blockade Card” once. Exciting times.


        • Fair enough. And hopefully good times. A happy new year to you! 😃


        • to where exactly. 6 to 8 weeks to ship from and to Asia, 16 hours from the EU and flying in freight is expensive as UK supermarkets’ found out when Dover was closed, all your supply chains is absurd claim , drugs, car parts etc are reliant on the EU
          Maybe you want to go back to horses and gaslight


        • If the UK reroutes all its supply chains it would have to at least depend on much higher transportation costs than simply sending stuff under the tunnel, or even on Ferries to Spain or France. So you’d have prices on a lot of things, and I’m sure Britain’s many climate activists would also have a thing or two to say about it. Plus a lot of the easier places you could send ships to such as Canada, or Norway also have their own deals with the EU, so you aren’t getting out of dealing with the EU with those countries.

          Given the cost of shipping certain fruits from Morocco or The Americas, I’m pretty sure the economic pressure to just send it under that tunnel isn’t going away soon Even if that tunnel was destroyed somehow, boats from the UK to several EU countries are much easier than to any nation outside that block. Plus I’ve seen how much even working class Britons have gotten used to buying certain things from Europe at sweetheart prices.

          That doesn’t even start to address “The Airbus issue”.

          Whatever you think the UK General Elections will or won’t do to change the situation, I can tell you there is no real chance that US Presidential elections are going to change the UK’s prospects of getting a trade deal with the US much. For one thing nobody including the President can make Congress sign off on a trade deal if it doesn’t want to. Getting a trade deal through the US Congress without some level of bi/multi-party support has always been notoriously difficult-it almost never happens.


    • The other institutions you mentioned were not dependent on leaving the EU. Canada has a non-member relationship with the EU in its won right.

      Also the EU would not have prevented British from writing a Constitution (since most members have written Constitutions and many have amended or revised them since joining the EU), Federalizing (since some EU states are Federal) or doing any number of Electoral changes. If anything I believe the EU might encourage some of that stuff. Trying political reform equal to 1832, or better would not have been prevented by Belgium.

      As for going down roads like CPTPP and giving more power to the City of London? That’s much like some of the stuff Henry VIII and Lizzie #1 did in terms of snubbing Europe while trying all manner of treaties with The Turks and with North Africa. In general, that was not a great time for England and eventually lead an extremely bloody Civil War that ended with Ollie C in charge. Realistically England took a turn towards authoritarianism and famine between Henry VIII’s “Original Brexit” and Lord Protectorate times.

      Honestly, I suspect Brexit would create more turmoil if there weren’t a pandemic utterly dominating every aspect of civilization right now. It may yet create serious turmoil in the UK-possibly even another English Civil War if things get bad enough- once people can congregate with no fear of the virus.

      Any of the things you mentioned should have been a separate question from whether or not Britain remain in the EU.

      The City of London? That thing has too much power.


  2. CANZUK, a reheated Edwardian fantasy of a globe-spanning UK Anglosphere acting as a world power which excites the enthusiasm of a small coterie of neoliberal and neoconservative ideologues, if no one else. The idea of CANZUK flies directly in the face of current geopolitics in a multi and highly distributed global economic order. It also defies the modern history of the these former colonies who have evolved as diversified, multicultural societies highly reliant on immigration from developing countries to sustain their economies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Former? Australia, New Zealand, and Canada are still in the Commonwealth Realms. If that doesn’t make them still British Colonies than the Irish Free State wasn’t either. In each case Lizzie #2 still appoints a Governor General.


  3. Seán McGouran

    The whole ‘United’ Kingdom has been taken out of a market of 500 million consumers. All the mental gymnastics in the planet is not going to change that.

    “We” have left the Club, and slammed the door behind us.
    There probably isn’t a way back in.


    • As someone commented elsewhere, Cameron doused the UK house in petrol, May blocked up the doors and windows, and Johnson set fire to the whole place. With the UK press proclaiming the virtues of living in caravans! 🤓


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