Brexit is not only an unprecedented event, it is also a long process. The agreement on trade relations between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom, passed on December 24, is just the start of what will inevitably be years of negotiations between London and Brussels. Many subjects have been left aside and will probably come back to the table: finance, diplomacy, student exchanges, strict rules on the automobile, mutual recognition of diplomas… From major files to technical subjects, it will be necessary to continue to discuss.
“It’s the start of Brexeternity, wrote in 2019 Denis MacShane, former Minister of European Affairs under Tony Blair: Brexit will continue to develop for years, if not decades. ” (Brexeternity: The Uncertain Fate of Britain, Bloomsbury editions, untranslated). Like receding tectonic plates, the event is deep but slow and it is difficult to predict when and where earthquakes will occur.
Of course, the entry into force of the new trade relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union on 1er January 2021 is a major turning point. Customs are making a comeback, with the control of goods. The free movement of people ends: a European wanting to work in the United Kingdom (and vice versa) will have to obtain a work permit.
The most logical thing will be to cooperate
But you only have to look at Switzerland to know that the file will not be closed for all that. Since the rejection by referendum in 1992 of the Swiss Confederation to enter the European economic area, Brussels and Bern have been negotiating continuously. A series of bilateral agreements were signed in 1999, still others in 2004, and endless discussions are underway on a draft institutional agreement.
What goes relatively unnoticed politically with a neutral country of 8 million inhabitants risks being unavoidable with the second European economy and its second army. For better or for worse, the EU and the UK are neighbors. Whether it is applying sanctions against the Russian or Syrian oligarchs, fighting global warming or dealing with the Irish border, it will make sense to cooperate. Politically, the subject will become less hot. But the British tabloids and the government of Boris Johnson can be trusted to blow on the nationalist embers if necessary, in particular to push its advantage against the continent.
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