Amid the coronavirus pandemic and difficulties associated with it, a serious European problem – the United Kingdom's exit from the EU – has temporarily receded from public view. The first half of this year is coming to an end, but all the rounds of negotiations between London and Brussels on reaching a mutually acceptable agreement on a smooth Brexit degenerate into failure. The end of the year is approaching like a ton of bricks, when the transition period will end and the parties will have to cut the cord that binds them, one way or another. There is a strong suspicion that by December, the UK will not reach any deal with the EU and its divorce will be "hard and wild".
Many political observers are inclined to this view by the fact that the two parties have lost several valuable negotiation weeks over the pandemic. Coronavirus and the suspended negotiation process gives London good reason or at least a pretext to ask for extending the transition period, which ends on December 31 this year and during which the old-fashioned trade and economic relations between the UK and the remaining 27 EU countries will stay the same. But London keeps silence. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson does not show any resolve to disavow his sounding promise not to extend the transition period.
Supposing that the British government is going to postpone all the issues until the second half of this year, it must be admitted that it has either lost hold on reality or is deliberately driving towards a hard Brexit. Usually, this kind of trade negotiations of the European Union with non-EU countries lasted for years, although conducted vibrantly, like it was with Norway or Canada. Moreover, these countries have demonstrated a positive drive to reach deals (even though Canada and Norway interact with the EU under various arrangements). The only thing Britain, for which read Prime Minister Johnson, demonstrates publicly is rigidity, intransigence and radicalism.
Johnson's behavior seems shocking. And there is no logical explanation for this at first glance, since outrage in politics and interstate relations is different from that before the lights or in private, the responsibility is different. The entire burden of problems in case of a hard Brexit will come upon the British, since the Albion's economy is much more dependent on continental Europe than vice versa. Under a no-deal exit, relations between the UK and the EU – trade, economic and political – will be in utter chaos, which may last indefinitely. And hence, businesses and ordinary people in the UK will indefinitely experience the economic consequences of this chaos.
According to some estimates, Europe's economic costs after a hard Brexit will only represent a small part of the COVID-19 pandemic-caused losses. As for the UK, the forecast is much more discouraging: Brexit will double the UK's economic losses from the pandemic. For this reason, the Spanish El País points out, the Bank of England and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) strongly oppose the country's no-deal withdrawal from the EU. The CBI, according to its website, "speaks on behalf of 190,000 businesses of all sizes and sectors. Together they employ nearly 7 million people, about one third of the private sector-employed workforce." These numbers are of certain significance. The CBI believes that Brexit should serve the British nation, without dominating the domestic agenda. But for the time being, Brexit, under Johnson's policy, is working against the British.
Here are some examples of future chaos. With a hard Brexit, the European market will be closed to free imports of British goods due to a sharp increase in import duties by Europe. As a result, many multinational companies with their Europe-targeted products will leave the UK. For instance, Japan's multinational Nissan company has just announced that it will close its plant in Sunderland (England's Tyne and Wear county) in case of a hard scenario, since 70% of its exports go to the continent.
On the other hand, London intends to prevent European trawlers from fishing in the British economic zone in order to protect their own fisheries. But then, firstly, the British will become closed to exporting fish to Europe, where 70% of Britain's total catch is sold for the time being. And secondly, the Europeans will respond with punishing other British export earners as well, including motor vehicles. Meanwhile, the UK's fish exports account for a mere 0.1% of national GDP. In other words, London is fighting for a trifle, jeopardizing a king's ransom. That's absurd.
There is only one logical explanation for this utter nonsense. Over the last year, US President Trump and British Prime Minister Johnson have been talking about the upcoming "fantastic trade deal" between the two countries, which, as conceived and proclaimed, should replace UK's losses from curtailing trade with Europe. Meanwhile, internal calculations of the British Cabinet itself, which has become public a while back, show that a trade deal with the United States will not even make up for London's losses from Brexit in the foreseeable future. Moreover, negotiations that have already begun between the British and the Americans demonstrate their mutual cravings and mutual intractability, and therefore it is hard to expect any speedy progress. Certainly it won't happen by the end of this year, when there is a high probability of UK's hard and chaotic exit from the EU.
Economically judging the situation between London and Brussels on the one hand, and London and Washington on the other, you can't help but hold that London and Washington are driven by something else rather than economic expediency. The answer may apparently lie across the historical and cultural landscape. Or rather it's about some global doctrine, very similar to religious faith.
The fact is that back in November 2016, after Trump's victory, The American Interest published reflections by patriarch of American politics Henry Kissinger, who, despite his advanced years, was later appointed adviser to the new American President. He recommended that Trump weaken the EU, detach the UK from the union and create a new political Anglo-Saxon axis involving the United States, Great Britain and Canada in the first instance. Additionally, Australia and New Zealand as the typical Anglo-Saxons are also gravitating towards them. Isn't this the source of Trump's harsh and hostile statements against the EU and his encouragement for Britain to leave the European Union?
At the same time, Kissinger advised Trump to transform the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) comprising the United States, Canada and Mexico, into sort of a North Atlantic agreement, with no room for Mexico this time. It should be replaced by Great Britain. The purpose of this castling move, Kissinger said, is to consolidate the Anglo-Atlantic sphere on the former EU's place.
So, how will this turn out? The NAFTA agreement was wound up by Trump's efforts to be replaced by the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement (USMCA), where Mexico was reduced to the role of a vassal. And the USMCA will apparently de facto live up to the moment when the "fantastic trade deal" between the US and the UK sees the light. The latter is leaving the EU, and the EU itself lacks unity on all the key issues with an undisguised prospect of collapse.
So, Johnson is astonishing the Browns not as a clown but as the holder of a certain arcane knowledge that is only known to him, Trump and someone else, but not to the "pathetic Europeans". Consequently, Brexit will most likely be tough and spectacular "to spite face".