‘Twas the night before Brexit and all through the Eurozone, not a creature was stirring, except for the British and Brussels negotiating teams who sought to provide finalization of the United Kingdom’s position post-Brexit. With a nation so divided, any deal was destined to leave a large portion of the citizenry unhappy.
Far from having visions of tariff-free sugar plums dancing in their heads, Brexiteers sent their wish lists (via the historic 2016 referendum) in the hopes that their country could once again become a free and sovereign nation. Did Santa deliver?
Sources within Downing Street posted a message saying that the “deal is done”. They continued:
“Everything that the British public was promised during the 2016 referendum and in the general election last year is delivered by this deal… We have taken back control of our money, borders, laws, trade and our fishing waters.”
It has been made clear by the PM’s office that the free movement of people will end and that there will be no role for the European Courts in determining British law in the future. But how does the announcement stack up against reality?
The EU Perspective
European Commission President Ursula von de Leyen stated in a press conference after the announcement that competition in the single market will be “fair” and that they have tools to deal with any areas where the E.U. markets are negatively impacted. Quite how this is a benefit to Britain seeking to be a competitive trading nation is not made clear.
One of the most contentious issues of the Brexit debate was over fishing rights. At present, roughly half of all fish caught in U.K. waters belong to the other European countries, and for many, this is seen as the destructive factor in the British fishing industry. The Commission president announced that the E.U. would retain major fishing rights for a further five and a half years.
What of Boris?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hoping to pin his legacy on being the man who “got Brexit done.” His job is now to try and sell the deal to Euroskeptic members of his party and the public as a whole. It is a tightrope walk in which he must convince Brexiteers that he has achieved national freedom while at the same time reassuring Remainers that nothing of substance will change.
His speech detailed the zero tariff and zero quota arrangement, but he remained silent on how much regulatory alignment there would be and how much say the E.U. will have in British government policy.
Deal or No Deal?
The deal apparently includes numerous “strong measures” that can be used against Britain with a roll-over every four years. Within minutes of the announcement, Brexiteers began questioning whether this was another treaty rather than a genuine trade deal. Getting out of an E.U. treaty was the whole purpose of Brexit.
With an expected 2,000 pages to the agreement, parliamentarians will likely not have much chance to research the fine details before they are expected to vote either for or against it on Wednesday, December 30. The deadline for any kind of deal is December 31, so if the deal is rejected, Britain becomes subject to the No Deal scenario – which is simply reverting to World Trade Organization rules.
Perhaps as we settle down for our long winter’s nap, we should listen to the often sage words of the man most responsible for Brexit, Nigel Farage, who said today, “However unhappy I might be about some of the detail, in 100 years time, kids in school will read that the people beat the politicians.” And perhaps this rare occurrence of the will of the people prevailing over the wishes of government is truly the Christmas miracle that Brexiteers had on the top of their lists.
Read more from Mark Angelides.