The British Parliament passed the UK-European Future Relations Bill on the 30th, paving the way for the future relationship agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union to take effect in 2021.
Analysts pointed out that although the agreement has been “cleared through customs” in the UK, it has not been formally ratified by the European Parliament on the EU side and is currently only “temporary implementation”.
Coupled with the fact that the agreement itself does not fully resolve some key differences between the two sides, the road after the breakup between Britain and Europe is still full of uncertainty.
Fast passage in the UK
After nine months of difficult negotiations, Britain and the European Union reached an agreement on the future relationship between the two sides on December 24, which requires the approval of the two parliaments before it can enter into force. On the afternoon of the 30th, the House of Commons of the British Parliament voted to pass the UK-European Future Relations Bill.
On the evening, the House of Lords also completed the procedures of the bill, and then submitted it to Queen Elizabeth II for approval into law.
Compared with the delay or even repeated ratification process caused by the British Parliament in the previous “Brexit” process, the ratification process can be said to be extremely rapid.
Despite the Christmas and New Year holiday, the British Parliament completed the ratification process of the UK-European Future Relations Bill before the end of the “Brexit” transition period at 23:00 GMT on December 31.
The bill was not only passed quickly, but also received high votes, with 521 votes in the lower house of Parliament and only 73 against. The majority of MPs of the main opposition Labor Party voted in favor.
Labor Party leader Kiel Starmer said: “A deal is better than no agreement.”
Wang Zhanpeng, editor-in-chief of the British Development Report (2019-2020), said that the high support rate of the British Parliament for the agreement shows that there is a consensus among all parties and reflects that the agreement is more important to the UK than the EU, both politically and economically.
EU “Interim Implementation”
Unlike the British Parliament’s rapid ratification agreement, the European Union has only given a “temporary implementation” decision. The Permanent Representatives of the 27 European Union convened an emergency meeting on the 25th to begin to consider the text of the agreement, and on the 28th decided to provisionally implement the agreement between January 1 and February 28, 2021.
Regarding the EU’s decision, Zhao Chen, director of the Office of International Relations of the European Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that because the “Brexit” transition period is approaching, in order to avoid chaos caused by “no agreement”, the EU has to take alternative measures to require member states to approve without the approval of the European Parliament.
The agreement will be provisionally implemented early next year.
Wang Zhanpeng pointed out that temporary execution is no different from formal implementation in terms of specific methods, which is actually a means to avoid tariff chaos.
Future risks still exist
According to the announcement issued by the Council of the European Union, after the provisional implementation of the agreement on the future relationship between Britain and Europe begins next year, the European Parliament still needs to consider the text of the agreement in due course.
Analysts believe that the approval of the agreement by the European Parliament is a high probability event, but the review process may not be smooth.
Cui Hongjian, director of the European Institute of the Chinese Academy of International Studies, pointed out that compared with the United Kingdom, the situation within the European Union is more complex because the interests of member states vary.
For example, on fisheries issues, France, the Netherlands and Belgium rely more on the fishery resources of British waters than most landlocked European countries, so they take a tougher position on relevant issues. The game between the parties will appear not only at the EU level, but also at the level of member states.
For example, when the EU ratified the trade agreement with Canada, it had been blocked by the opposition of a country’s local council.
Cui Hongjian believes that the EU will take a long time to approve the agreement, which may lead to the problems encountered in the process of “temporary implementation” the agreement becoming an obstacle to the approval of the agreement.
In addition, experts also pointed out that the current agreement on future relations between Britain and Europe is only a basic framework reached by the two sides under the common goal of avoiding a “no-deal Brexit”, and some contradictions have been resolved later, which adds uncertainty to the future.
Wang Zhanpeng said that many specific legacy issues of “Brexit” have not been completely solved in fact, and there are still many unclear points in the relationship between Britain and Europe, especially in the financial field and borders.