The last “one foot” seems to be an indispensable plot of the British “Brexit” drama. A year ago, less than two months before Britain’s jure “Brexit”, Prime Minister Johnson pushed for an early election and led the Conservative Party to win the largest number of seats since Thatcher’s era. The Brexit Agreement Bill, which he led by him, was subsequently passed by a high vote in the British Parliament.
Britain officially left the European Union on January 31 this year. Enter an 11-month transition period. A year later, a similar plot seemed to be repeating. The Anglo-European negotiations continued to be postponed because differences were difficult to bridge. Finally, there was room for change when the three-week transition period was about to expire. The turnaround happened dramatically overnight.
On the evening of December 7th, local time, European Commission President von der Leyen and Johnson made another call on the negotiation of the future relationship between Europe and Britain. Subsequently, the two sides said in a brief statement that because major differences still exist on the three key issues of the fair playing field, compliance management and fisheries, the terms for an agreement “do not yet exist. In”.
However, the next day (8th), European Commission Vice Chairman Marosh Shevčovčović and British Cabinet Secretary of Staff Michael Gove issued a statement in a statement on behalf of the co-chairmen of the EU-UK Joint Committee that the two sides had reached “unanimous in principle” on the implementation of the Brexit agreement, covering issues such as border control, Entry and exit inspection of animals and plants and derivatives, export declaration, trade in pharmaceuticals and frozen meat products, etc., and clarified the scope of application of state subsidies under the framework of the Brexit agreement.
The United Kingdom also promised to repeal the disputed provisions of the Internal Markets Act that violated the “Brexit” agreement, and the two sides agreed to continue to deal with matters such as border inspections in Ireland and Northern Ireland under the “Brexit” agreement.
Johnson himself was relieved, and when asked if he would still work until the last minute to reach an agreement, Johnson replied: “Of course.” This is obviously different from his previous tough stance of “ready for a no-deal Brexit”.
“In some negotiations, this is the norm.” Wang Zhanpeng, director of the British Research Center of Beijing International Studies University, analyzed to the reporter of China Youth Daily · China Youth Network that from past experience, the European Union is used to “marathon” negotiations, and many years of trade negotiations have achieved breakthroughs in the last two days or even the last night.
Those so-called “overnight negotiations” reflect more of a political posture, with both sides clearly aware of each other’s bottom line and chips, “the question is whether to reach an agreement through concessions in the end”.
The EU summit is about to be held on December 10. Barnier, the chief Brexit negotiator of the European Union, believes that the summit is the point to whether the EU and the United Kingdom can reach an agreement.
If the draft agreement appears on the table of the EU summit and is considered and adopted, it will also need to be considered by the EU Parliament and EU member states.
That’s why public opinion generally believes that if the two sides miss the window of time for the EU summit, they may really start preparing for a no-deal Brexit.
On December 8, the Institute of Advanced Regional and Global Governance of Beijing International Studies University, the British Research Center of Beijing International Studies University, the British Research Branch of the European Society of China, and the Social Science Literature Publishing House jointly released the British Blue Book: British Development Report (2019-2020).
As a report updated across the year, the Blue Book systematically sorts out domestic and foreign and economic and social issues during the Brexit transition period. Wang Zhanpeng, as the editor-in-chief of this book, told the reporter of China Youth Daily · China Youth Network that the core differences between Britain and Europe are actually old problems, and it is difficult to be completely resolved in the next few days or the last two or three weeks. Many specific problems may take several years to gradually solve. The end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 this year is not very variable.
The Blue Book points out that July last year to July this year is the first year of the Johnson administration. The complacent Johnson announced at the beginning of this year that he would open a new chapter in British history and usher in Britain’s “extraordinary decade”. However, it was during this year that Britain experienced unprecedented changes and domestic and foreign difficulties.” The double impact of Brexit and the COVID-19 epidemic has caused the United Kingdom to face all-round challenges in the past year and greatly discounted Johnson’s ruling report card.
Time is getting tighter and tighter. No matter how the “Brexit” drama ends, the “Brexit” process itself and the COVID-19 epidemic have profoundly affected the direction of British politics. The overwhelming victory of the Conservative Party in the December 2019 general election seems to pave the way for breaking the “Brexit” deadlock; but the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic not only disrupted the pace of negotiations between the Johnson administration and the European Union on future relations, but also led to the British public to be conservative because of its much-criticized anti-epidemic strategy.
The party’s approval rating and trust have declined significantly.” The Blue Book highlights that partisan political games are one of the key factors in the outcome of Brexit. Is this judgment still applicable? Wang Zhanpeng analyzed that although the impact is not as obvious as before last year’s election, the influence of partisan political games on the “Brexit” process itself and on the “post-Brexit era” of Britain still exists. For the ruling Conservative Party, how to deal with the challenges of opposition parties such as the Labor Party after Brexit, how to deal with the rise of local nationalism in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and how to solve the economic and social problems of Britain may be the game issues it has to face.
The unresolved issue of “Brexit” and the severe impact of the epidemic have put great pressure on the British economy. In a spending review report to Parliament in November, Chancellor Sunak said that the British economy may shrink by 11.3% this year, which will be the worst recession in nearly 300 years.” The risk of hard Brexit still exists, which also leads to signs of some foreign investment withdrawal. The financial, retail, tourism and other services, which are relatively heavy in the British economy, are expected to be difficult to recover effectively, and manufacturing may face a sharp decline in production capacity, which will lead to higher unemployment.
On the whole, due to a series of internal and external factors, the British economy is difficult to see a good start in the short term. Even after the end of the epidemic, the economic impact, including the burden of public debt, will continue for a longer time. Whether the British-European trade agreement can be reached, whether the economic recovery plan can be successfully implemented in the post-epidemic era, and whether the financial market can stabilize and recover have become three important factors related to the medium- and long-term development of the British economy.
The situation is so serious that it is so important to reach a trade agreement between Britain and Europe. But in Wang Zhanpeng’s view, Johnson may not think so completely. On the one hand, even if it eventually has to “brexit without a deal”, Britain can start other coordination work, “making up for losses inside and outside the levee”; on the other hand, Johnson’s administration is in a weak stage at this time, and he himself is not willing to make substantive concessions in the Anglo-European negotiations to avoid giving control at home.
Wang Zhanpeng believes that Johnson’s pragmatism style will continue. This is particularly obvious when he deals with diplomatic issues. This point is also expressed in the Blue Book. Although strengthening the special relationship between Britain and the United States is a key link in realizing the blueprint of “global Britain”, and Johnson himself has formed a relatively good personal relationship with Trump, there are still many policy differences between the two. For example, on the issue of the Iran nuclear agreement, Johnson fully used the “balance beam” tactics. On the one hand, he was open to the so-called “Trump plan” and believed that if the Iran nuclear agreement was invalid, the “Trump plan” was a substitute. At the same time, he continued to coordinate with French and German leaders to form a comprehensive safeguard of the Iranian nuclear issue. The united front of the agreement.
Britain’s handling of Huawei’s 5G issues with China is in sharp contrast to its handling of the Iranian nuclear issue. Repenting on its previous promise and announcing that Huawei should be banned from participating in the construction of the UK’s 5G network, and the frequent actions of the United States on the traceability of the novel coronavirus and Hong Kong-related and Xinjiang-related issues have also highlighted the Johnson administration’s more rigid policy towards China.
Wang Zhanpeng believes that the superposition of multiple problems fully exposes the Johnson administration’s short-term success, contradiction and speculative nature in foreign policy. After the change of the U.S. government, the EU is undoubtedly its most important Western ally, and then the post-Brexit Britain will be more marginalized.
At this moment, the world’s attention is focused on Johnson’s meeting with von der Leyen in Brussels. “Bet on one basket” and “cliff negotiations” are the words in many media headlines. The problem is that although there seems to be a turnaround overnight, the possibility of a “no-deal Brexit” still exists; even if a successful agreement is reached, Britain will inevitably return to the road with a “rexit sequela”.