Brexit: A Mystery Wrapped in a Riddle inside an Enigma


With the chances of a Brexit deal seeming to have improved after the British Government and the European Union agreed “to go an extra mile” in order to reach an agreement before a no-deal on January 31st, the negotiations continue for this week as well.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney stressed emphasis on the fact that two key issues, fair competition and a level playing field around for now and in the future are difficult to resolve.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and British prime minister Boris Johnson on December 13th spoke over the phone and later issued a joint statement thereby, dropping the Sunday deadline and continuing with the negotiations. The move came after the sources at the Irish Government showed some progress made over the weekend with cautious optimism in Brussels and Dublin over a deal that could be possible in times to come.

The EU’s main negotiator, Michel Bernier told diplomats in Brussels that the UK has accepted a rebalancing mechanism meaning it could face tariffs if it moves too far away from the EU rules.

“The UK government for the first time had accepted a mechanism of unilateral measures such as tariffs, where there were systemic divergences which distort trade and investment,” Bernier said.

There have been reports of the post-Brexit trade deal negotiations between the UK and EU to continue in Brussels which could possibly lead to a deal agreed this week.

Negotiations between the two sides were extended on Sunday after Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen agreed to continue the process despite having major differences.

According to the media reports, the two had a three hour dinner where they aimed at determining both sides' willingness to continue negotiations for a post-Brexit trade deal that could avoid a chaotic breakup in three weeks.

"We agreed that the negotiating teams should immediately reconvene to try to resolve these essential issues," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

"We are willing to grant access to the single market to our British friends - it's the largest single market in the world - but the conditions have to be fair,” the Commission president added.

The discussions majorly revolved around three important issues such as, fair competition, governance of the deal, and fishing rights.If the deal between the UK and the EU is not finalized by 31 December, there could be a possibility that the UK might have to trade with the EU on the international trade rules set by the World Trade Organization which basically asks for import tariffs and higher costs of business for firms on both sides of the English Channel.Additionally, failure to secure a deal would cost around $1 trillion (€825 billion) of annual trade and would create havoc throughout supply chains across borders besides disrupting the financial markets.

The prime minister, prior to his trip to Brussels had told MPs about the EU’s intention of retaining automatic right to punish the UK in the future, if it does not comply with new EU laws.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President of European Commission Ursula von der Leyen meet to discuss Brexit

How did Brexit come to be?

The anti-Europe sentiment in England dates back to at least 8000 years ago. Being geographically isolated from Europe and boasting of a global empire where the sun never set put Britain on a higher footing as compared to the European counterparts. The heroic victory in the 2nd World War and a rapidly growing economy caused the British to believe that the EU is an anti-British plot aimed at reducing the powers of the British government.

This belief was cemented by the Bruges address of Margaret Thatcher in 1988 when she famously remarked, “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them reimposed at European level, with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.” This address paved the road for Brexit.

Brexit So Far

In the 2015 election, David Cameron promised to hold a Brexit referendum if he was elected Prime Minister. This promise came in the wake of a financial crash, growing resentment against immigrants and the anti-EU sentiments voiced by the Ukip Party.

The promised referendum took place on 23 June, 2016 after several rounds of discussions with the EU and heated debates in the House of Commons. The country voted for leave with a meagre majority of 52% to 48% . Following this, David Cameron stepped down from premiership owing to his inability to hold the Conservative benchers together on the Brexit issue.

Image: A projection on to No 10 Downing Street marks the moment the UK left the European Union

He was succeeded by Theresa May who in spite of her support for remaining in the E.U. during the referendum campaign, stood up as a leader to bring together the Conservative Party and to unite a badly divided country. However, her efforts were in vain as her premiership was characterized by deep divisions along Brexit lines.

Rushing into a national election before the competition of her term, May lost her majority and was forced to step down. Boris Johnson took up the baton with a goal of getting Brexit done within 50 days of entering office. But critics note that less than 5% of his deal was the same as the deal brought in by May, which Johnson twice voted against. The only change brought in by the British PM into the deal relates to Northern Ireland. May’s proposed deal would have kept the UK under some EU rules until both sides agreed on new arrangements to ensure an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – a key feature of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The flag is taken down and folded up outside the European Parliament building in Brussels

The deal was passed by the EU on 31 January, 2020 and included a transition period which ends on 31 December, 2020.


Kavya Kothiyal | Anagha Rajesh

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