At the end of the year, Britain could have no deal with the EU and no deal with the US. There is also a risk of a massive economic downturn from a second corona lockdown.
Did Boris Johnson gamble completely? At the start of the year, he promised on Twitter, “This will be a great year for Britain.” At the end of the year, the UK faces disasters at various levels.
Following Johnson’s announcement that he may not be abiding by the exit agreement with the EU and that he will intentionally break international law with a new single market law, a no-deal Brexit – again – is more likely. In any case, the EU made it clear: If Britain doesn’t comply with the treaty, there will be no agreement on future trade relations.
Last week, Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, was pessimistic about future relations with Britain in her speech on the state of the European Union: “Every day we are less likely to reach an agreement in time.”
At a special summit on September 24 and 25, the EU wants to discuss the status and future of the Brexit negotiations. So far there is not even a draft text for a trade agreement between the two parties. To ensure sufficient time for ratification and implementation of the convention, a final version should be available by the end of October.
Johnson can prevent a rebellion – for now
In addition, Johnson’s attempt to re-exercise the EU exit deal, which has been in place for a long time, is met with resistance from his own ranks. 30 Conservative MPs – including die-hard Brexiteers – spoke out against Johnson’s Single Market Act. Only with concessions could Johnson keep them from open rebellion shortly before last week’s vote. All five former prime ministers who were still alive also publicly distanced themselves from Johnson’s Brexit plans.
With his threat to violate the exit agreement he himself negotiated with the EU, Johnson has also alienated American Democrats. Their presidential candidate Joe Biden made it very clear what he thinks about Johnson’s behavior – and the associated danger of a hard border between Ireland, which remains in the EU and Northern Ireland, which leaves the EU with Great Britain: we will not allow the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Northern Ireland, of which Brexit is a victim. Any trade deal between the US and the UK must be based on respect for that agreement and prevent the return of a hard border. Period of time. ‘
We cannot allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a victim of Brexit.
Any trade agreement between the US and U.K. depend on respect for the agreement and the prevention of the return of a hard border. Period of time. https://t.co/Ecu9jPrcHL
– Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 16, 2020
If Biden is actually elected as the new US president in November, all hopes of the British in Donald Trump’s promised “phenomenal” trade deal with the US could be dashed. But even if Trump stays in power, Johnson shouldn’t cheer prematurely. With his kind of politics, Trump has shown time and again that he is primarily concerned with national and personal benefits – and that he does not feel bound by promises or agreements.
But that’s not all: Britain is in the midst of a second corona wave that could again wreak havoc on the country’s economy, which was currently in a mild recovery phase. During the pandemic’s first peak, the UK economy fell 20.4 percent in the second quarter of 2020 – a negative record in Europe.
Britain is at risk of a huge rise in unemployment
And: the British short-time working model expires at the end of October. This temporarily secured about nine million jobs. It is very doubtful whether this will work in the long term. The Bank of England expects the unemployment rate to rise from about 4 percent now to 7.5 percent by the end of the year.
Britain is also the country with the most fatalities in Europe with nearly 42,000 corona deaths to date. The ailing UK health system NHS (National Health System) was already facing major challenges with the first wave of infections.
A second lockdown, which Johnson no longer wants to rule out, would hit the British economy hard again. It is also expected that a hard Brexit – combined with customs duties and import controls and, in the worst case, chaos at the borders – will lead to a new economic malaise. Ultimately, Britain could become a paralyzed country, both economically and in domestic and foreign policy, and – as in the 1960s and 1970s – the “sick man of Europe”.
Johnson provokes and alienates allies and potential trading partners
All of this should drive the British Prime Minister in the first place to make sure his country is the best it can be after leaving the EU and in post-Corona times. But Johnson takes a different path. He provokes and alienates allies and potential trading partners. He unnecessarily questions the credibility of his country. Who wants to work with a partner who sees violation of international law as a legitimate means to achieve their goals?
The Barnier Staircase: Named after the EU chief negotiator for the Brexit negotiations, Michel Barnier, it shows the different levels of possible trade relations between the EU and Great Britain. (Source: dpa)
Another problem: Johnson does not present solutions that are acceptable to the other side. Johnson, like Trump, is mainly concerned with national interests. Like Trump, he forgets that politics and economics don’t work that way in times of globalization – at least not permanently.
Johnson still doesn’t want to understand what Angela Merkel made unmistakably clear in 2016: Brexit will not be icing on the cake. Britain cannot free itself from the EU’s obligations and still continue to enjoy all the benefits the EU has to offer.
Johnson still has some time to avert at least some of the impending catastrophe for his country and still strike a deal with the EU. A trait of Johnson could be an advantage in this case: the British Prime Minister has proven several times that he has no problem radically changing his beliefs and views.