The commencement of 2021 was expected to seek a cessation of the extreme- power dynamics of the European Union aided by the multilateral powers held by the United Kingdom, but the deal would be boldly conceded by Boris Johnson after the extreme failures of Theresa May and David Cameron, who would have thought! The why and how of the deal pursue what was lost in this 48-year old unity and more than 4 years after a slender majority of Britons voted in the favour of quitting the European Union, the United Kingdom will be leaving the bloc’s single market and customs union at 23:00 GMT on Thursday, 31 Dec 2020.
The EU’s major officials on Wednesday, finally signed the long fought-over Post-Brexit trade deal with the UK. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel signed it in a brief ceremony in Brussels, Belgium. The UK voted to leave the EU in 2016 and officially left the trading bloc on 31st January 2020. However, both sides agreed to keep many things same until 31 December 2020, to allow enough time to agree to the terms of a new trade deal, which was finally agreed to on the 24th of December, as a period of transition in order. After months of negotiation, the UK and the EU finally agreed on a deal that will define their future relationship. “This agreement that we signed today is the result of months of intense negotiations in which the European Union has displayed an unprecedented level of unity”- said Michel. “It is a fair and balanced argument that fully protects the fundamental interests of the European Union and creates stability and predictability for citizens and companies”.
The document flown across the Channel to London in a Royal Air Force Plane and was signed by the President Boris Johnson. The UK Parliament debated the agreement on Wednesday before a vote at 14:30 GMT, setting up new trade rules between the 27-nation bloc and former member, the United Kingdom. The House of Lords, which holds the un-elected lawmakers, then started their debate. The 1,240 pages long ‘Trade and Cooperation Argument’ deal contains new rules for how the UK and EU will live, work and trade together.
What changes will 2021 bring along?
While the UK was in the European Union, companies could buy and sell goods across EU borders without a restraint on the amounts of things which could be traded and the taxes to be paid. Though that won’t change on the 1st of January as for today, to be sure of the ‘Level Playing Field’- that neither side has an unfair benefit, both sides seem to have agreed to some shared rules and standards on workers’ rights, as well as many social and environmental regulations. The deal also affects the aspects including travel, fishing and financial services.
The freedom to live and work between the United Kingdome and the nations involved in the European Union, including Germany and France who apparently have a good rapport with the UK, also come to an end. From Jan 2021, UK nationals will only be able to travel without a visa to Schengen area countries for up to 90 days in any 180 day period (this includes most EU countries and Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein). The rules to live in EU change for the UK citizens- they would now need to obtain a new residents’ permit and further check in with the country’s rules. Starting 2021, there will no longer be automatic rights granted to live, work, study or retire among the areas of the EU. For the EU citizens staying in the United Kingdom, the rules remain the same until 30th June 2021.
The most projecting concern of immigration, too, seeks a new pattern of existence. A renewed UK Immigration System will be adopted from January, describing a new Points-Based System for foreign citizens wanting to move to the United Kingdom with a set of novel restrictions and abiding rules.
The Northern Ireland protocol will however, be retained as it continues to follow many of the European Union’s rules in order to avoid a hardening of its border with the Republic of Ireland. This will mean that new checks will be introduced on goods entering the Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. This renewed structure is definite to bring about some initial disruption at the borders, among the neighbours and tariff structures. “This is the biggest imposition of red tape that business have had to deal with in 50 years”, says William Bain from the British Retail Consortium. If businesses are not prepared or do not fill in the new paper work correctly, it could cause delays and backlogs at ports like Dover. It is difficult to predict what the scale of any disruption might be, but Government Minister Michel Gove has said that UK businesses should prepare for some “bumpy moments”.
However, conferring to the purpose to the initiation, UK is now free to set its own trade policy and can negotiate deals with other countries. Talks are being held with the US, Australia and New Zealand- countries that currently don’t have free trade with the EU. The European Union’s fishing rights in the UK waters will be reduced and so will it affect the fishing and via-water trade industry structures. The UK’s annual membership fee for the EU will thereby end starting January 2021, though some pending bills may still need to be paid off. Decisions are still to be made on the data sharing and financial services. PM Boris, who was elected in the 2019 by a landslide and pledged to “Get Brexit Done”, speaks of a “newly and truly independent nation”.
Conditions and critiques
The Covid-19 Pandemic was no dainty blow on the UK if one wonders this dynamic departure bases itself on a strong economy. It is clear that UK has deep, structural economic problems despite- and in some instances because of- almost half a century of an EU membership. Since 1973, the manufacturing base has shrivelled, the trade balance has been in permanent deficit, and the north-south divide has widened. Free movement of labour has helped entrench Britain’s reputation as a low-investment, low productivity economy. And so much has the European Unions suffered along, experiencing problems of slow growth, high levels of unemployment and a rapidly aging population. The single currency, which Britain fortunately never joined, has failed to deliver the promised benefits. There has been a divergence of power structures and applications, disrupting the basis of financial stature.
Whatsoever, the United Kingdom, since its bold decision to drop out of the Union, has not really disintegrated all ties with the EU. Advocates of ‘Global Britain’ have highlighted UK’s role as a permanent member of the UNSC, and as an influential player in the UN more generally, as an example of London’s role in multilateralism. The UK has a good relationship with Germany in the Security Council, United Nations, and as of 2019, both Berlin and London were keen to show they would keep working together through Brexit. In fact, the most salient feature of the London multilateralism has been the immense degree of continuity with Britain’s approach to the UN prior to the Brexit. For a challenge to the general notions that UK would now be closer to the USA, it was rather close to its former EU partners, especially France and Germany in the ‘E3’ format.
Many believe this is a chance to seize for the UK as they picture a ‘Global Britain’ leading the third-world, and yet once again, repeating the history that spoke of its immense structural powers. However, some critics calculate this to be a much harder strike on the already disordered economic circumstances. The national economic output will shrink by 4 percent over the next 15 years as a result of UK’s departure from EU’s single market and customs union, according to the UK’s financial watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
As for the coming world of 2021 and the new post-pandemic era that the nations prepare for, there is a possibility Brexit may continue to showcase instances and issues with the changes in decisions and economic adjusting abilities. This being said, we can hence expect more interactions between the United Kingdom and the European Union, thus concluding there’s a much long way to go.
Press release: Signature of the EU-UK agreement, 30 December 2020- https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/12/30/press-release-signature-of-the-eu-uk-agreement-30-december-2020/
Opinion- “The left must stop mourning Brexit”- https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/dec/31/the-left-brexit-economic-uk
Richard Gowan- “Brexit Britain at the United Nations”- https://fpc.org.uk/brexit-britain-at-the-united-nations/
David Child- “UK braces for historic departure from the European Union”- https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/12/31/uk-braces-for-historic-rupture-with-the-european-union
“Brexit- What you need to know about the UK leaving the EU”-https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32810887
Timeline of events in Britain’s exit from the European Unions – https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/timeline-of-events-in-britains-exit-from-the-european-union/article33462375.ece