But why are we still talking about this damn Brexit?



The photo montage shows a young child on Santa’s lap:

– “What would you like for Christmas ?” asks the man with the white beard.

– “A Porsche 911!” answers the little boy, his innocent eyes riveted on the old man, who reasons him: “Come on, be realistic.”

– “That Brexit is over?” then suggests the child.

– “What color is the Porsche? ” replies Santa Claus.

The cartoon, shared in mid-December on Twitter by Anand Menon, professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London and director of the group ofhe academic reflection on Brexit UK in an changing Europe (link in English), sums up the situation well: decided by the British people by referendum in June 2016, the divorce between the United Kingdom and the EU is not the rupture promised at the time. It’s a long process. Potentially endless. While the British and European negotiators still hope to put a commercial agreement under the tree and escape the dreaded scenario of the “no deal” (no deal) on January 1, Anand Menon, described as “Brexit sphinx”, even of “rock star” because of the clear and relevant analyzes it draws from diplomatic chaos, warns: “Meme if there is an agreement between the UK and the EU this week or next week, that is not the end of this story. This is just the beginning.”

To you who wanted to move on. To you who thought Brexit was a thing of the past. To you who hoped to never hear from again “last chance negotiations” : Merry Christmas. As a gift, we explain to you why you are more likely to be offered a sports car than to see the end of this politico-economic chapter quickly arrive.

You hadn’t dreamed of. On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom officially left the European Union. To mark the occasion, a countdown was projected on the facade of the Prime Minister’s residence, 10 Downing Street, in London. We are the Champions, of the group Queen, resounded on the outskirts of Westminster … So why do we talk again, eleven months later, of this famous “deal”, supposed to prevent a chaotic exit from the EU? “What the Europeans had negotiated with the United Kingdom and signed in October 2019 was the withdrawal agreement, the divorce agreement”, recalls Elvire Fabry, cresearcher at the Jacques-Delors Institute and specialist in Brexit.

After nearly four years of negotiations, this agreement settled “the most pressing questions”, as “the status of European citizens in the United Kingdom and that of the British in the EU; the question of the Irish border or the question of the United Kingdom’s financial commitments linked to its membership of the EU”, she lists, among others. This time, it is a question of another type of “deal”: a trade agreement.

On December 13, 2019, just a few weeks before the official Brexit date, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was triumphantly re-elected, promising to “end Brexit”“get Brexit done” –, already surfing the weariness of the British faced with the slowness of goodbyes. However, Boris Johnson’s political promise today seems a bit misleading and disconnected from the reality of the functioning of the European Union. And for good reason, the coherence of the European project lies in part in the membership of the different states that make up the EU to the customs union, as well as to the common market..

Thus, for Elvire Fabry, the unrealistic promise of a quick and painless Brexit is, from the outset, a misunderstanding, even a lie. “Many of the British politicians who were pushing for Brexit did not have the beginnings of an idea of ​​what the reality of the EU was and therefore what it was selling to their constituents. They sold dreams by promising the return of the United Kingdom to the heyday of the Commonwealth. But even today, it is difficult to see what their post-Brexit strategy is ” in terms of trade, asks the researcher. Also, it is during the negotiations that “we became aware of the density of the muscle which is created between the member states and the complexity of this cooperation”. And the difficulty of unraveling it without penalizing both parties.

To allow the United Kingdom and the European Union to decide the conditions of this new post-Brexit partnership, the withdrawal agreement provided for the establishment of a transition period, the limit of which will expire on December 31, 2020. , at midnight. “LNegotiations on future relations started in early February, remembers Elvire Fabry. And then came the Covid. “ For several months, discussions on the unborn trade agreement were sometimes suspended, sometimes reduced to difficult virtual exchanges. “This process did not start again in earnest until the beginning of September, which leaves a very, very short negotiation time., she notes. From the start, we wondered what could be, under these conditions, the scope of such an agreement, knowing that there were a lot of issues to discuss. ”

On Sunday 13 December, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, thus agreed to negotiate until the last minute, in the hope that the two parties do not come together. wake up without a commercial agreement on the morning of January 1. Because at the approach of the final gong, the arm wrestling continues on three crucial points of this future relationship: the question of fishing, the conditions of fair competition – called across the Channel “level playing field” – and the issue of governance of the said agreement. True to form, the two camps continued Thursday, December 17 to distill conflicting information in the press, the Europeans promising a possible agreement by the end of the week, while the British maintained the possibility of failure.

Gold, “the signing of an agreement is decisive, because it brings a little bit of visibility to companies and in particular to SMEs which have not had time to prepare for future rules like large companies”, notes Elvire Fabry.The agreement must provide a basis for negotiation for all the other issues that will then have to be discussed in detail “, she continues. Finally, he brings “an additional guarantee on compliance with the Withdrawal Agreement and in particular on the question of the Irish border “.

But where a “no deal” could durably undermine the atmosphere and confidence between London and the 27, the expected obtaining of an agreement would not mean that the Brexit page would be turned. “There would still be a lot to do,” underlines the researcher. “Particularly in matters of judicial cooperation, in the framework of the fight against terrorism in particular. It is a huge project, which has not been discussed at all until now. The same goes for cooperation on migration issues. “, she lists, or the thorny issue of data sharing. “Of course the UK and the EU are never going to stop talking, we’re neighbors!” adds Anand Menon. From the start of the transition period, he sensed that, if there was agreement, it would therefore be a “thin deal “, a “thin chord”, excluding many crucial files postponed. Foreign policy, security, defense, but also services.

Also, nothing and no one could have anticipated at the time of the referendum as so many questions would be posed to negotiators over the years, note the two experts. These difficulties have not, however, eroded the convictions of Brexiters. “Those who voted in favor of ‘Leave’ now know that Brexit will have negative consequences for the economy. However, they have not changed their minds and still think it was worth it”, explains Anand Menon.

“People saw in Brexit a question of sovereignty, the desire for national renewal, the taking of control of our destiny, of our economic, agricultural policies, etc. And for the moment, they have no regrets.” Gold “Brexit is what happens after divorce”, slice Anand Menon. “We can consider that Brexit is ‘finished’ when the UK will present an economy which for its people functions well outside the European Union, outside the common market and the customs union. It is only after all this is settled that we can judge Brexit. ” See you in December 2068?



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