Why a hard Brexit is still looming despite the deal

Updated December 27, 2020, 11:27 a.m.

  • Last-minute agreement: After months of negotiations, the European Union and Great Britain reached a trade agreement.
  • Both sides try to sell the deal as a success.
  • A British political scientist and a German political scientist evaluate the agreement: Which side made concessions and where? And why is there still a threat of a no-deal?

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Many observers no longer expected it: And yet, after tough negotiations, there is a last minute Deal between EU and Great Britain. If no trade agreement had been concluded by December 31, a no-deal would have threatened a hard economic break.

But now, after months of dispute, the solution should be found on 1246 pages. The agreement on a commercial contract in which the economic relations from January 2021 are regulated, both sides confirmed on Thursday afternoon.

What do you need to know about the deal? We answer the five most important questions.

1. Why did the agreement take so long?

Over four years after the Brexit referendum, the EU and Great Britain have finally closed the bag. Negotiating nights and lots of disputes have shaped relations between London and Brussels since June 2016.

“There was many details on the Brexit dealbecause the British and EU economies had been closely intertwined for many years, “said British political scientist Anthony Glees in an interview with our editorial team. In light of this, the agreement did not last long. For example, the trade agreement between the EU was discussed and Canada (CETA) argued for even longer: from 2009 to 2014.

The fact that the deal only comes a week before the end of the transition phase was a tactic. “Both sides negotiated until the last moment,” says political scientist Tanja Börzel in an interview with our editorial team. This is particularly crucial for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson: “The hard brexiteers in his party as well as the anti-EU press hardly have time to tear the deal apart and ask how much control the EU still has over Britain,” explains Börzel. The fisheries sector in the EU will hardly be able to mobilize political resistance either.

2. How were the issues resolved?

The negotiations recently revolved around three topics:

  • Fishing quotas,
  • Competition rules
  • Dispute settlement mechanisms

“Each side gave in on the three sticking points“, says the expert Börzel. In the end, however, the EU prevailed. With” take back control “Johnson had promised: No money to Brussels and no rules from Brussels. But both still exist.

“The UK does not have to adapt its national rules to stricter EU rules in the future, but if the EU tightens its standards and Great Britain does not follow suit, and this leads to a distortion of competition, the EU can activate a dispute settlement mechanism,” explains Börzel. The partnership council is similar to the procedure of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which could result in the imposition of punitive tariffs.

This means that the UK must continue to follow the EU rulesif it wants to have access to the internal market and it has to submit to a legally binding dispute mechanism, “notes Börzel. Although this is not the European Court of Justice (ECJ), British sovereignty is still restricted. In addition, the British remain in five EU Programs – such as the European Research Council – and must continue to pay into the EU budget for this.

“They have no influence on the rules or the amount of the payments, these are set by the EU institutions. That means” taxation without representation “, emphasizes Börzel.

Johnson’s catch on the issue of fisheries also seems small: the British can now claim 25 percent of the catch value of EU fishermen in British waters. Johnson initially asked for a quota of 60 percent, and later 35 percent.

3. Which side got more out of it?

“Both sides have made compromises”says Glees. He emphasizes: “The internal market is secure, Great Britain can continue to sell its goods and fish there.” In addition, the island will get more sovereignty and no longer need to worry about the ECJ. “This is seen as a great achievement in the UK,” says Glees.

He still says: “Great Britain came out of Brexit badly, the EU very well.” Because while goods and agricultural products are traded duty-free through the trade agreement, this does not apply to service companies. But financial services in particular are central to the British.

Great Britain is losing a lot in terms of internal security – for example in the fight against terrorism – since it is no longer allowed to simply use the EU databases. The British had to make further concessions: “The EU has not allowed our hygiene and meat regulations to be automatically adopted, the same applies to British qualifications,” says Glees.

That would be a severe blow for the universities: “Without automatic recognition of degrees, far fewer students will come from the EU,” the political scientist is certain and sums it up: “The deal is tough. The British will suffer, no doubt.” Britain would lose trillions of pounds over the next ten years, it would become more difficult to travel and freedom of movement would be completely denied to the British.

4. How does it go next?

“The important thing is that there is a deal,” says Glees nonetheless. That is much better than a no-deal. Because that leaves the door to the EU a little open for Great Britain. “If the attempt Making Britain a Singapore on the ThamesIf you don’t succeed in the coming years, you can try to add to the deal, “says Glee.

“So there is a chance that Brexit will succeed, even if I am pessismistic,” says Glees. It is also possible that the coming situation will be good for the EU if it has to compete with the UK in some areas.

Political scientist Börzel says: “The economy is simply relieved that there is finally security, even if the export companies will have to deal with a lot of additional paperwork.”

5. Why is there still a risk of a no-deal?

Before the agreement comes into force, it has to go through the UK and EU Parliament. The House of Commons in London will vote on December 30th. “The deal will come through”, Glees is sure. A couple of Brexiteers would make a noise, but with the votes of the opposition Labor Party, the agreement was as good as certain. The EU Parliament, on the other hand, will not ratify the agreement until next year.

So there is a phase in which the agreement is actually in force – but has not yet been approved by the EU. “If the EU Parliament rejects the agreement in January and does not play along, we are indeed back to a no-deal”warns Glees. However, he thinks the scenario is unlikely. “Now everyone is happy that there is a deal,” says Glees. But he expects political consequences in three to four years.

About the experts:

Prof. Dr. Tanja Börzel is a political scientist at the Otto Suhr Institute for Political Science at the Free University of Berlin. She heads the European Integration Office.

Prof. Dr. Anthony Glees is a British contemporary historian and political scientist. He is an internationally renowned expert on European affairs, British-German relations, and security and intelligence issues. He teaches at Buckingham University.

It was a last minute deal, but that doesn’t stop the job. The Brexit agreement on Christmas Eve is now being analyzed everywhere. It will continue like this in the days to come.

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