Christmas Eve on December 24, Britain and the European Union presented each other with a “Christmas gift”: only a week before the end of the “Brexit” transition period, the two sides finally reached a “Brexit” trade agreement.
After four and a half years and three prime ministers, the “divorce” drama between the United Kingdom and the European Union is coming to an end.
When we talk about Brexit, what are we talking about? Is it inevitable for Britain to leave the EU? How will the world pattern evolve? Is the process of globalization blocked?
“The difference in goals is the root cause of Brexit”
When we talk about Brexit, we are essentially talking about the reshaping of the relationship between Britain and the European Union. 47 years after Britain’s accession to the European integration process, Britain’s integration relationship with Europe is facing a new turning point, which is of great significance to the relationship between Britain and the European Union, the United Kingdom and the world.
The agreement reached between the UK and the EU on December 24th only shapes the economic and trade relations between the UK and the EU, and there are many things that are not covered. This is a node to reshaping the relationship between the UK and the EU.
The difference between the UK and the rest of the EU in terms of European integration goals is the root cause of Brexit. European integration was launched as a result of Europe’s profound reflection after years of inter-state wars and two world wars, in order to avoid a potentially tragic war.
More specifically, it is to curb nationalism within Europe, and to resist the imagined invasion that may come from the Soviet Union. European integration is full of federalism and has been throughout history.
The goal of European integration is political, but it has achieved remarkable economic results. The volume of trade among European Community member states has increased economic prosperity and national wealth.
After seeing this economic benefit, Britain decided to apply for membership in the European Community in the early 1960s, and was not able to join it until 1973.
Britain’s accession to the European Community is looking at its huge internal market and the economic development dividends brought by European integration. After years of development of European integration and the release of internal dividends, this marriage brought together by economic interests came to an end.
“Brexit is not intended to weaken the EU”
One analysis is that Britain’s “Brexit” is due to “European suspicion” mentality, and it is expected that other member states will follow suit, thus weakening the post-EU dominance of the United Kingdom.
Wang Mingjin: Britain’s utilitarian purpose of European integration has also become the root of the continuous development and growth of Euroskepticism. Britain has always thought that it is different from Europe.
Historically, its policy towards the European continent has been to adopt a balanced policy to avoid hegemony on the continent.
The initial British attitude towards European integration was hesitant. When European integration was launched, the United Kingdom did not join in. When Britain joined the European Community, it had a strong resistance to its federalist factors and was very wary of any possible “loss” of its sovereignty.
Margaret Thatcher, the standard-bearer who actively promoted Britain’s accession to the European Community, gradually became a hardline Euroskeptic in Britain after taking office. The British Conservative Party gradually became an Euroskeptic party, and finally proposed a Brexit referendum under Cameron’s government in 2013.
However, Brexit is not intended to weaken the EU. After Brexit, the UK will also seek to become a close ally with the EU. Britain and the EU are closely linked in trade.
They have formed a lip-tooth-dependent relationship, and both sides are committed to establishing a close relationship after Brexit.
“‘Global Britain’ is more a foreign strategic concept”
How will the next strategic focus of the United Kingdom shift?
Wang Mingjin: Brexit means a major turn to its foreign strategy. British Prime Minister Johnson, an active advocate of the concept of “global Britain”, said in his speech at the Royal Naval Academy of Old Greenwich on February 3, 2020.
Britain should be a superman for global free trade. Britain also regards Brexit as an opportunity to rethink its foreign relations and international status, so that Britain has a more global perspective, pays more attention to its relations with the rest of the world, especially its special relationship with the United States, and the role of the Commonwealth.
But the world is no longer the world when Britain joined the European Community, let alone the world during the British Empire.
“Global Britain” can only be a foreign strategic concept of Britain to a large extent, and it is still unknown to what extent it can reshape Britain’s relationship with the world.
“Globalization will enter a new stage”
Will Brexit intensify the domestic “Leaving the UK” movement? Does it mean that the process of European integration and globalization is blocked?
Wang Mingjin: The problem of Northern Ireland and Scotland, which many people pay attention to, has always troubled Britain.
This problem does not arise because of the emergence of Brexit, and Brexit will not have a fundamental impact on this problem.
Against the backdrop of political renationalization in Europe and Brexit, the United Kingdom may strengthen central control over local government, as exemplified by the Internal Markets Act recently passed by the United Kingdom.
Brexit is a major setback to European integration. The success of Brexit also provides an example for populist forces in other countries within the EU to follow, which may trigger the further development of populist forces and hinder the development of European integration.
But the EU has shaken off a half-hearted member and is easier to reach agreements on many major issues related to European integration, thus enabling European integration to advance.
In addition, Brexit means a setback to neoliberal-led globalization, but globalization is an objective trend that is not shifted by human will, and globalization will enter a new stage. Brexit is also a challenge to China-EU and Sino-British relations, but it is also an opportunity to reshape bilateral relations.