On January 1, Great Britain finalized its separation from the regulatory orbit of the European Union, leaving the bloc after almost half a century. Although it formally left in January 2020, for 11 months it underwent a transitional period, operating under the EU while negotiators established the terms of future trade relations between the two parties.
The split, known as Brexit, has finally been closed, kicking off now, which analysts say will be the biggest overnight change in modern business relationships.
The trade deal between the two parties, far from closing the book on Britain’s tumultuous relationship with the rest of Europe, opened a new chapter, beginning with a flurry of trade hurdles in the past week.
Round and round. Brexit, an acronym in English for Great Britain and exit, was popularized as an abbreviation for the proposal for the country to secede from the European Union. But the truth is that Britain has debated the pros and cons of being a member of a club of European nations almost from the start, in the years after World War II. In the 1960s, it applied twice for membership in what was then the European Economic Community, to be vetoed both times by France.
In 1973 he finally joined the group, but held his first referendum on whether he should leave less than three years later: 67% supported remaining in the bloc.
Four decades later, in 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron promised another referendum on EU membership with the idea of solving the issue once and for all. The options were to stay or go. Cameron was convinced that under those simple terms, “staying” would win easily. But it resulted in a serious miscalculation. By the time voters in Britain went to the polls on June 23, 2016, a refugee crisis had made migration a topic of political fury across Europe. After a hot campaign where it aimed to open cracks and promote xenophobia, the exit from the EU emerged with the support of 52%.
Losses and pandemic. Articulating the exit took four years, and cost him his post after the failed Cameron and Theresa May as prime ministers, which even raised a new referendum. Today the signing of the agreement – by Boris Johnson on the side of Great Britain, and by Ursula Von Der Leyen and Charles Michel for the EU – is already in place. But the headaches don’t end.
The Office of Budget Responsibility, an independent official body that evaluates the British government’s economic plans, estimated that economic output in the country could be 4 percent lower over the next 15 years.
British companies have been able to transport goods to and from the European Union for a long time without paying taxes or duties. If the two parties had not reached an agreement before the December 31 deadline, fees would have been imposed, raising the price of cars considerably, and making it much more difficult for British farmers (in return Johnson made concessions in fishing agreements).
But problems could still arise at the border, with controls on the rise given the pandemic: Traders will have to complete new customs declarations and trade relations face more restrictions.
Employment and study. Brexit put an end to the possibility of looking for work in other parts of the bloc without the need for special permits, and to the Erasmus exchange program, which since 1987 sends hundreds of thousands of young people to travel abroad to study and do internships every year.
In the four years after the 2016 referendum, the number of Europeans migrating to Britain for work plummeted, with British companies replacing their employees in Paris and Frankfurt.
This for Britain is a Pyrrhic victory. The country now lacks from veterinarians to customs agents to cope with the tens of millions of declarations that are now needed: meat, fish and dairy products that are sold to the block face the same inspections as European imports from countries like Chile or Australia. Perhaps a mistake that Britain has regretted for decades.
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