Christmas Eve on December 24, Britain and the European Union gave each other a “Christmas gift”: only a week before the end of the transition period, the two sides finally reached a “Brexit” trade agreement.
This means that the “hard Brexit” that many people worry about will not appear, and the United Kingdom will officially leave the EU Single Market and Customs Union from January 1 next year.
From the decision to “Brexit” in the June 2016 referendum, to the official “Brexit” in January 2020, to the end of the “Brexit” transition period on December 31, 2020, the “divorce” drama between the United Kingdom and the European Union seems to finally come to an end.
In these four and a half years, the drama has been full of ups and downs.
The British Prime Minister has changed three terms, the chairman of the European Commission has changed two terms, and the “Brexit” date has been postponed three times.
Some netizens joked that Britain’s “Brexit” turned into “delaying the European Union” like a long and boring series.
Now, the “Brexit” finale is finally coming. What are the highlights?
Agreement on page 2000
On January 31, 2020, the UK officially left the European Union, but this is not the end. During the next 11-month transition period, Britain and Europe need to negotiate on trade and other issues.
If the two sides fail to reach a trade agreement by the deadline of December 31 this year, border inspections and tariffs between Britain and Europe will resume.
Since then, it has been a nine-month negotiation and tug-of-war against the background of the coronavirus epidemic.
During this period, the two sides set up deadlines for agreements on many occasions, but none of them were achieved.
The focus of the dispute between the two sides is still the fishing rights in British waters and the fair competition between Britain and Europe.
With the New Year approaching and the shadow of Britain’s “hard Brexit” is getting heavier and heavier, the European Union and the United Kingdom are silently preparing for a no-deal “Brexit” in January next year.
However, just as the transition period was about to end, the peak circuit turned around, and Britain and Europe announced that they had reached a “Brexit” trade agreement, defining Britain’s bilateral relationship after the end of the “Brexit” transition period.
According to the Guardian, the core of the 2,000-page post-Brexit” agreement is the “European-British Free Trade Agreement”, covering European and British trade in goods and services, investment, competition, taxation, transportation, energy, fisheries, data protection, social security coordination and other aspects.
European Commission President von der Leyen called the agreement “fair and balanced” and that the two sides reached an agreement at the last minute as “right and responsible”. In a statement, the British Prime Minister’s Office said that this was great good news.
Britain and Europe signed the first “free trade agreement with zero tariffs and zero quotas, which is also the largest bilateral trade agreement signed by Britain and Europe, and the trade volume reached 668 billion pounds in 2019.”
On the issue of fishing rights, which is of the most concerned, the United Kingdom agreed to give EU fishing boats a five-and-a-half-year transition period, during which they can continue to operate in British waters.
The British fishing community was dissatisfied with this, but Johnson said on the same day that although it was three years longer than the British hoped, it was far less than the 14 years originally required by the European Union.
However, the European Commission’s announcement pointed out that the agreement does not cover foreign affairs, foreign security, defense cooperation and other fields.
According to the BBC, the agreement still needs to be passed by the British Parliament, the European Parliament and the parliaments of EU member states, which is expected to be a long process.
Three “Brexit” Prime Ministers
Johnson’s happiest point is probably that he has finally completed the task that neither of the previous two prime ministers has completed.
Former British Prime Minister Cameron first mentioned the Brexit referendum in 2013. In June 2016, Cameron announced his resignation in a referendum to leave the European Union.
After deciding to “Brexit”, how to “detach” is a big problem. In the same year, Theresa May, the “Iron Lady”, came to power with this historical mission.
However, for three years of hard work, her prime ministership has repeatedly been on the verge of crisis, but she has failed to achieve Brexit. In June 2019, “Aunt Mei” stepped down.
After the “Aunt May” stepped down, Boris Johnson, one of the representatives of the “hard Brexit” came to power. After taking office, Johnson made it a top priority to complete “Brexit”, and he promised the public many times to complete Brexit soon. On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom officially left the European Union, ending 47 years of EU membership.
Nearly 11 months later, Britain and Europe reached a trade agreement before the end of the transition period, and “Brexit” came to a smooth end.
After the post-Brexit” agreement, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that “all matters reached to the public in the 2016 Brexit referendum and last year’s general election were achieved through this agreement” and “we have regained control of funds, borders, laws, trade and fishing waters”.
We are completely independent politically and economically from 2021.” Johnson also stressed that “for the first time from 1973, Britain will become an independent coastal country with full control over our waters” and that Britain will become a “new and truly independent country”.
Johnson’s two predecessors also sent congratulatory messages.
Cameron tweeted, “This trade agreement is very welcome, which is a key step to establish a new relationship with the EU as a friend, neighbor and partner.” Theresa May said, “This agreement gives enterprises confidence and keeps trade going.”
Tian Dewen, deputy director of the European Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, pointed out in an interview with the Beijing News that reaching a “Brexit” trade agreement must be a major achievement for Johnson, because the UK has been very impatient with the matter of “Brexit” that has lasted for several years.
But Johnson has many challenges ahead, including the post-Brexit British law, how the British economy will recover and how to control the epidemic.
The end is another beginning
In fact, the last-minute agreement reached, both the UK and the European Union were relieved.
At a December 24 press conference, European Commission President von der Leyen said that “the road to agreement is long and rugged, but a good agreement was finally reached”, “it is time to turn the page and look forward to the future”, and “the end is another beginning”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was very excited.
He tweeted that he had “agreement reached”, accompanied by pictures of him laughing happily and thumbs-up with his hands.
At the press conference, Johnson said that “the United Kingdom has regained control of law and destiny” and “sometimes the debate is fierce, but this is a good agreement for Europe as a whole”.
European leaders also expressed support for this.
According to the Guardian, German Chancellor Merkel said on the same day that the trade agreement between Britain and Europe was “historical” and would lay the foundation for “opening a new chapter in the relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom”.
French President Macron tweeted that the EU and the UK reached an agreement “very necessary to protect our citizens, our fishermen, our producers” and that “Europe will continue to move forward to a united, independent and powerful future”.
Tian Dewen said that the last-minute agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union was partly achiced, because the willingness of the two sides to reach an agreement was strong.
From the British side, if it fails to reach an agreement, it will face a “hard Brexit”.
4At that time, it will be a big blow to Britain’s already overburdened economy and cause great trouble to the Johnson administration.
Therefore, the British side is eager to reach an agreement. From the EU side, Brexit” has dragged on for too long, as long as it can Enough to reach a compromise, the EU must want to end this matter quickly. Therefore, the two sides made some compromises with each other and finally avoided a no-deal “Brexit”.
The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union, not the European Union
At a press conference on the 24th, von der Leyen stressed that the EU and the UK are “long-term allies”, referring to common interests within the framework of COP26, G7, G20, etc., saying that Britain and the EU will continue to move forward “shoulder to shoulder”. Johnson also said that “although the UK has left the EU, it will continue to maintain cultural, emotional, historical, strategic, geographical and European ties”.
Tian Dewen said that “the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union, not Europe”, and the close economic and trade relations between Britain and Europe will not change dramatically because of Brexit.
From the perspective of Britain, it will take a long time to change the structure of trade and adjust the international strategic pattern.
From the perspective of the European Union, Britain is still relatively dependent, especially on climate change, energy, transportation and other issues. The two sides will still have a lot of close cooperation.” Even if Britain wants to be a globalized UK, it is first and foremost a European country.
Tian Dewen said that although Britain left the European Union, it would not have much impact on Europe’s political landscape. Because first of all, Britain was relatively free in the EU before.
It was neither in the Schengen nor in the euro area, and to some extent, the United Kingdom remained in the European Community stage. There are even claims that Britain is the “bad boy” in the European Union.
From this perspective, Britain’s withdrawal from the EU is somewhat a good thing for the European integration process.
“What’s more, Britain has decided to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.
After several years of Brexit tug-of-war, EU member states are fully prepared and ready for Britain to leave, so the departure of the UK will not have much impact on Europe.”
Tian Dewen explained, “But in other words, Britain’s completion of Brexit has turned its exit from the EU into a realistic and feasible option, and more Europeptics may want to leave the EU. Therefore, for the weakening EU, it is not entirely a good thing for Britain to really leave.