Brexit is delivered
Boris Johnson has delivered not only Brexit, but also a post-Brexit agreement with the EU. Some die-hard Brexiteers would have preferred a no-deal scenario under WTO rules, and indeed the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) has its weaknesses from the UK's point of view. Still, it is nonetheless more Brexit than Brino (Brexit in name only). At the very least, it represents a viable starting point for sovereign future development.
The agreement preserves British sovereignty, at least to the extent that enabled the lawyers of the European Research Group - considered the strongest Brexit advocates in the British House of Commons - to approve it. This development is no less interesting for EU sceptics in other member states than it is for the UK, as the UK example shows that Brussels' predictions of doom and proclamations of no alternatives in connection with the EU's apparatus of foreign rule often miss the mark. Just as London's financial centre did not lose weight because it did not join the Eurozone or the British economy did not collapse because the referendum voted for Brexit, it did not take a decade to negotiate a post-Brexit free trade agreement.
International agreement and not EU treaty
The agreement is a compromise, which was also shown by the fact that each party emphasised what it considered a success from its own perspective during the presentation. However, what is decisive is that it is an international agreement and not an EU treaty, regardless of the weaknesses one can find. Finally, in broad areas, Boris Johnson got the "Canada-plus" which he has always favoured. Johnson succeeded in what his predecessor Theresa May failed to do, namely, to leave the single market and the customs union. Brussels apparently feared a no-deal scenario far more than the EU Commission is prepared to admit, suggesting that the EU is perhaps more dependent on some member states than they are on the EU. British legislation will in future rest with the British Parliament and be interpreted by British courts, without the European Court of Justice having any say in those matters. The regained economic independence will enable Downing Street to implement its plans for industrial zones and free ports. In principle, Britain is also once again able to have an independent public procurement regime. Regardless of how free trade is viewed or under what conditions, the trade agreement does not provide trade tariffs and quotas. A points-based immigration system is to come into force as early as 1 January 2021. The British government has already planned free trade relations with 58 nations.
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The transitional period of five and a half years and the regulation of fishing catches are likely to be condemned as a stinging defeat for the British fishing industry´s tight Brexit voters - even if Brussels demanded even more. The divorce bill of 25 billion pounds that the UK is still transferring to Brussels will also hit Brexiteers hard. Initially, there was talk of 39 billion. The impact of the Withdrawal Agreement, specifically the Northern Ireland Protocol, in terms of controls on the movement of goods between the main island and Northern Ireland, for example, led the DUP to vote against the agreement in the House of Commons, even though they supported Brexit. For the fact that the UK is essentially a service economy, this sector, in particular, was also quite neglected in the agreement. It remains to be seen what Downing Street will make of this situation. Many Brexiteers, not least given the refugee crisis, wanted Britain to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, but this will not happen according to the agreement. The EU Commission makes cooperation in the area of security dependent on this.
Level Playing Field
As far as the question of the level playing field is concerned, the treaty rules do not fundamentally impede the UK's sovereign legislative competence, since even in the case of customs countermeasures by the EU, the British would have the possibility to terminate the agreement with 12 months' notice. Crucially, however, disputes over this agreement will be decided by a Partnership Council or jointly appointed independent body, not the ECJ. Sovereignists who are now scrutinising the agreement for its weaknesses should, however, not forget, that in the end, the United Kingdom has clearly swum free in comparison to all EU member states.
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EU not without alternative
Recalling the EU's intransigence towards Johnson's predecessor, it is obvious how much Brussels feared the “hard” Brexit that Johnson's cabinet had been ready to take into account. With the UK example, the reform-incompetent EU has now lost its prerogative of interpretation in matters of supposed lack of alternatives and will be far more dependent than before on convincing rather than merely instructing. In this respect, from a pan-European perspective, the conclusion of this Brexit is not the end, but perhaps only the beginning of a process. According to a Euronews poll, 45 pe rcent of respondents in Italy are in favour of leaving the EU in the event of a successful Brexit, followed by 38 per cent in France, 37 per cent in Spain and 30 per cent in Germany. The Brussels empire is a giant on feet of clay. Not entirely without reason, Marine Le Pen called the EU the gravedigger of the independence and identity of European nations, as well as the executioner of public utilities in the name of a cult of profitability and free competition - both mortal enemies of the public interest. One thing is certain: The end of the story has not yet come!
Sascha A. Roßmüller
Europe contra EU – Join Europa Terra Nostra for a better European Future!