Lack of Exit Strategy Could Lead to a No Deal Brexit

, by Eleonora Vasques

Lack of Exit Strategy Could Lead to a No Deal Brexit

After the US election results, in which Joe Biden was confirmed as the 46th US president, the Brexit negotiation trend changed dramatically. This is due to the failure of the Boris Johnson strategy. The UK Prime Minister said more than once that a no-deal with the EU would not be a problem if the UK found an agreement with other extra-EU countries.

The Trump-US was the first candidate for such a deal, however, the Biden idea on next UK-EU relations is sharply different from the Trump one: Biden has expressed concerns regarding Brexit since 2016. Additionally, the Boris Johnson decision to break the law on the Northern Ireland protocol after Brexit particularly contributed to exacerbate relations with the EU, and non-EU countries (the US included). “Any trade deal between the US and the UK must be contingent upon respect for the [Good Friday] Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border period” said Mr Biden on Twitter last September.

The combination of the US election results and the consequences of Boris Johnson’s idea to violate an international agreement on Northern Ireland (with the risk to re-create a violent situation in that area) makes the UK a less reliable international partner. As a result, London changed its strategy, intensifying negotiations with the EU.

Although several discussions occurred throughout November, EU Chief negotiator Michael Barnier said on Twitter last week that “we agreed today that the conditions for an agreement are not met, due significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries.” Last Saturday, when journalists questioned him in front of the European Commission on whether a deal will be reached or not, Barnier replied only “we will see.”

It can be deducted that the future of the UK-EU relations after the 31st December deadline is still a mystery, even for negotiators themselves.

Therefore, the no-deal is a scenario that is becoming more and more tangible, due to Boris Johnson’s unpredictable behaviour in negotiations and the looming Brexit deadline.

It is notable that the reason for these events are twofold. Before the 2016 referendum, the Brexit debate was articulated only according to the ’yes’ and ’no’ pattern, with the ’pro-European’ front on one side and the ’Eurosceptics’ one on the other. This debate scenario did not allow an adequate debate on the EU, which should have been articulated, for example, on the following questions: “what is the EU?”, “Which relations do we want with the EU?” and “how should the EU change?” These questions would have sharply helped negotiations and the elaboration of a more articulated Brexit strategy.

Nevertheless, the focus on only ’remain’ or ’exit’ forbade any productive discussion on how the relationships between the UK and the EU would develop. As a result, in less than one month the negotiations’ time will expire, with significant points still unsolved.

On the other hand, after the 2016 referendum, the government concentrated on the ’hard Brexit’ and the ’Get the Brexit Done’ slogans, instead of discussing which kind of Brexit should have been realised. Since then, the Conservative party campaigned for a ’hard Brexit’, without asking its citizens whether they agree with it. It is important to underline that 51,9% of UK people voted to ’leave’ and not for the kind of Brexit they want (for instance, a ’hard’ or ’soft’ one).

When analysing these elements, it can be said that the reason why the negotiations became a “race against time” is mainly due to the absence of an exit-strategy by the UK government. The Prime Minister has kept the Brexit deadline for the 31st December at any cost, although the global pandemic; however, it seems that he is “betraying” his supporters likewise with this recent change of trend, and it looks like he is not able to guarantee a safe Brexit for its citizens and UK residents.

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