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Adieu Royaume-Uni. Et au revoir? Adieu Royaume-Uni. Et au revoir?
by Christos Mouzeviris
2021-01-13 08:39:12
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Well, it finally has happened. After four gruelling years of negotiations, debates and a nation divided, the United Kingdom has finally left the European Union. It took back control of its borders and fate as it always wanted, and left the Brussels based "gravy-train" of corruption, red-tape and unelected bureaucrats.

They can now see their sovereignty returned to them and be masters of their own fate and course in history; or can they? For the months prior the Brexit deadline and during the last minute negotiations between the EU and the UK to avoid a no-deal, we witnessed the humiliation of Britain in diplomatic and economic fronts, not their government's grandeur. Now if these sacrifices were necessary in order to reach the desired level of Great Britishness again, remains to be seen.

brexout000001_400One of the most obvious losses if it materializes, will be Scotland. Together with Northern Ireland, it voted to remain in the EU, while England and Wales opted to leave. Since then, the Scottish government proposed a compromise. That would have meant the UK leaving the EU but staying in the single market, yet that compromise offer was rejected by the UK government, which wanted then, and still does now, a more distant relationship with the EU.

Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, penned an article published in the Irish Times, just after New Year's Day 2021, stressing her nation's plea again, pointing out that the only route for Scotland rejoining the EU is indepence. "For too long successive UK governments have taken Scotland in the wrong direction, culminating in Brexit and the introduction of legislation that had threatened to break international law and which still undermines the Scottish parliament. It’s no wonder so many people in Scotland have had enough. We are committed to a legal, constitutional route to becoming an independent state. As an independent member of the EU, Scotland would be a partner and a bridge-builder – not just a bridge to building a stronger economy and fairer society, but a bridge to aid understanding between the EU and UK," she said.

Should Sturgeon convinces her nation to follow her aspirations, the United Kingdom will be no more, at least as we know it.If the EU accepts Scotland and politics over break-away regions don't come to the fore, aka the Catalonian issue, then the UK just lost a vital region and its access to a significant part of the North Atlantic/North Sea. Thus, Great Britain just got smaller.

Then there is the Northern Ireland issue, another region that ideally would like to stay in the EU. After the EU-UK negotiations, this British territory is practically remaining in the EU, all but in name. It stays in the single market, since the UK and EU have agreed to keep an all-but-invisible border without checkpoints, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland will continue to follow many of the EU's rules, meaning that lorries can continue to drive across the border without having to be inspected. However, some new checks will be needed on certain goods arriving into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK instead. Food products will need to be checked to ensure they comply with EU standards. Brussels-run officials will be able to supervise checks on trade that is happening within the UK's borders, despite Boris Johnson insisting there'd be no border down the Irish Sea.

In addition, the Irish government has announced that it will fund Erasmus scheme for Northern Irish students, since Boris Johnson had said the UK would no longer participate in the exchange program. Irish Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris told the national broadcaster RTÉ, “the cost is relatively low, but it’s not a cost, it’s an investment,” adding the estimated expenses would be around €2 million per year. In other words, the Irish government is stepping in where the British one has failed or disdained to act decisively, ensuring further opportunities and chances for the Northern Irish youths. If that is not something that may turn the tide in the future for Irish unification, or the drifting of the region away from the UK core, then what is. The Northern Irish students, which represent their nation's future, hopefully will never forget who stepped in for their rights and interests.

But Northern Ireland and Scotland are not the only regions that are opting to retain their ties with the EU. A last-minute agreement between negotiators from Spain, Britain and Gibraltar, allows passport-free travel between Gibraltar and Spain. As part of the deal, the European agency Frontex will monitor sea and air arrivals in the British enclave. People arriving from Britain will need to go through passport control, as they did until now. Fearing border checks that could leave it isolated economically, Gibraltar wanted control-free access to the Spanish mainland, similar to those enjoyed between the European countries that are part of the Schengen area. The borderless area's requirements, will be adopted by Gibraltar with Spain as the responsible member for the application of Schengen rules. The Spanish authorities also insisted on maintaining the interdependency with Gibraltar, since many of its citizens work there and cross the border daily.

But even the City of London, the country's economic heart and powerhouse, will not be spared by the new reality. On the first trading day of 2021, the fourth of January, billions of euros of business left the UK for the European Union. Some €5bn of trading in shares ranging from French banks to German car companies departed London and reappeared in financial centres in mainland Europe such as Paris and Amsterdam. A pan-European exchange where EU equities are traded, saw virtually all the trading business flip from its London platform to its Paris base.

Naturally such shifts were expected and they won't be perpetuating for ever. At some stage in the future when the dust settles, things will normalize again and we will have a clearer picture on the new EU-UK relationship after Brexit. Yet while the rest of Europe will go on without one of its oldest members, the British people will be the ones that will pay the highest price. What has been signed by their government hasn't been explained to them in its totality and there are many grey areas. They will gradually have to reajust to the new reality and hope for the promised better deals with other blocks and countries, which their government promised them.

Hopefully in the end, things won't be as gloomy as predicted by many for Britain. A number of other European countries are outside the EU and the Single Market, like Serbia for example. They are managing and progressing, despite the slower pace and limited number of opportunities. Besides, the UK is not Serbia. It has more resources, overseas territories, wealth, partnership with the US and the Commonwealth and it is located within a stable, prosperous region of Europe, unlike Serbia. The question is, why restrict yourself by abandoning what you have negotiated and worked for the past five decades, as it serves the interests of your country's elites.

Because that's what really is Brexit about. In fact, that is the driving force of every political reality and development in Europe. Some powerful and rich groups from within or outside our continent benefit from a shake-up, thus they lobby, corrupt or campaign in order to achieve what they want. They use and manipulate public opinion, taking advantage of our democratic system and freedom of press, in order to employ our societies in making decisions that suits them. And we are falling for their lies, just as the British people did regarding Brexit.

The ordinary UK citizen will see little benefit from it, quite the opposite in fact. Prices of goods will rise, travel and trade will become more complicated, opportunities to study and work in another European country will be limited or awkward to achieve. And all the promises of wealth "trickling down" from the new reality will remain just that: promises. We should be wise enough by now, not to fall for such false claims. When did any of the benefits and privileges we granted to the big multinationals, have trickled down to the rest of us?

By tapping into the lower classes' fear of foreigners, nationalism, financial worries and ignorance on how the EU works, the British elites have managed to convince them to vote for something that will ultimatelly be detrimental to their future. As if British politics and society do not suffer from corruption, bureaucracy, lobbying, favoritism and nepotism, they have nevertheless projected those negative qualities to other countries and the EU institutions, perhaps in a desperate attempt to cover their own shortcomings and faults.

And that is why, although it pains me to see one of the oldest members leaving the club, partially I am pleased that Britain has voted for Brexit. For decades they were unhappy and utterly contemptuous towards their partners and the EU, opted out of many of its regulations and blocked an equal amount too. I believe that Brexit will shine a light on the truth, the British citizens will realize their government intentions and satisfy their curiosity of being outside the EU. If they ever decide to return as full members, they will do so consciously and with a better knowledge or information. And this will be beneficial for everyone.

In addition, Brexit will be good for the rest of Europe too. And not just regarding the aforementioned financial terms, or the fact that the EU lost one of the main obstacles for further integration. Similar euroscepticism like in Britain, can be found across the block. The UK can act as an unfortunate example of what is to come, if others want to follow suit. It can finally teach our governments on the importance of informing their citizens of the benefits of EU membership, and clarifying on how it really works. Until now, they were claiming all of the achievements as their own, while they were charging the mistakes onto the EU or other member states.

Besides, our governments were primarily self serving. That is another reason why Britain left. There is no true solidarity among them, just vested interests. For example we witnessed on how Europe is treating Greece over its problems with Turkey, or how Germany and France pushed Greece under the rails, sacrificing it to the IMF, in order to save their own banks and affairs. And I would not exclude the possibility of rich EU and non-EU states allowing, or even encouraging Britain to leave, in order to benefit themselves again. Let Brexit be a stark reminder to our governing elites, that if this selfish demeanor continues, more citizens will be disillusioned and fed up with the constant inequality, infighting, bullying and slandering that exists within the European politics and circles. And the EU institutions are not the ones that should get the blame, rather our own national governments.

The EU is not responsible when a member state is voting against the interests of another, or when the richer and most powerful countries, are sidelining and exploiting the poorer ones, the periphery of EU. The blame should be applied entirely on those governments. However, if they do not change their course of action in the EU, the sentiment among the populace will become even more sour than it already is. Consequently they will turn against European integration overall, not the national governments. They will naturally want to disolve this union, if their needs are not met and witness the inequality that exists among the members. Thus, Europe in its totality will lose out, for the errors and short-sighted decisions of our national politicians.

To conclude, the battle for Britain to remain in the EU is sadly lost. Let everyone take stock of the situation, study the outcome, learn from the mistakes that took place which lead to this new reality. Every government in Europe should ponder on the future of the EU and their desired role in it. Because if they do not change course, instead of an example to avoid, Britain will become an example to follow, when a country must save itself from an unworkable situation. As for Britain, I truly wish to see it as a member soon again, fully committed to Europe and working to change it for the better from within.


     
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