One hundred days after Brexit materialized, trade in the English Channel has suffered the greatest collapse on record and political trust between London and Brussels has been mined by the unilateral decisions of the United Kingdom in Northern Ireland, as well as by the war of the vaccines.
In January, the first month in which the United Kingdom was separated from the European Union (EU) in 44 years, British exports to the bloc, its main trading partner, fell by 40.7% (6,450 million euros) and imports fell by 28.8% (7,600 million euros). According to the latest figures from the British Office for National Statistics (ONS), this is the largest decline recorded since 1997, when it began to collect such data.
The impact on imports is less due to the fact that the United Kingdom has postponed until 2022 the controls on goods that arrive in the country from the EU, precisely to try to cushion the economic blow of Brexit.
On the other side of the canal, however, the new customs requirements were enforced as of midnight on December 31. As a result, the output of food and animals from the United Kingdom fell by 59% in January compared to the monthly average of 2020, that of chemical products by 52% and that of fuel by 45%.
The evolution of the figures over the next few months will determine to what extent this sharp fall responds to a specific correction, due in part to the stock accumulation in the weeks leading up to Brexit, or if it is a trend that will continue in the long term.
Tension in Northern Ireland
The passage between the British region of Northern Ireland and the island of Great Britain, where they have settled new customs requirements, remains one of the main sources of tension after Brexit.
The measure, which was agreed to avoid a border between the two Ireland, which would contravene the peace accords in the region, effectively involves internal customs in the UK, which has angered Northern Irish unionists and sparked protests in recent days. To try to minimize friction, the British Government has unilaterally decided not to apply all controls in Ulster until at least October, a step that the EU interprets as a breakdown of the Brexit agreements.
After years of arduous negotiations to agree on the conditions for leaving the United Kingdom, the perception that London has tried to breach the agreed terms A few weeks after they came into force, it has damaged political confidence in the British Government, a problem that may affect future cooperation in various fields.
“Extending the grace periods unilaterally is definitely a technical breach of the Protocol, despite the fact that the United Kingdom assures that it is trying to make it work and both parties are still talking,” Patrick Holden, an expert in International Political Economy of the Plymouth University. “What bothers the European Union is that the UK rejected offers to extend the transition period (which concluded on December 31), but does not admit that he is not prepared to implement what he agreed to for Northern Ireland, “he added.
Despite Brexit, both sides of the channel remain broad common interests in areas such as climate change and international relations with Russia, China and the countries of the Middle East.
However, the fact that London and Brussels are now economic rivalsTogether with “deep hostility towards the EU in British media and the Conservative Party”, they can complicate cooperation, which requires “deep commitments and trust” on both sides, Holden stressed.
The program of vaccination against coronavirus in the UK is way ahead compared to most European countries, which has generated in certain sectors of the United Kingdom the impression that the independence of community regulators after Brexit has facilitated this success in managing the pandemic.
At the same time, in the EU the speed of vaccination has raised suspicions in the British Isles while the pharmaceutical AstraZeneca, which has designed a vaccine in collaboration with the University of Oxford, failed to meet its delivery commitments to the block.
Threats from veto exports Vaccines to the UK have further strained relations and fueled confrontation with the EU in the British press. “No, you can’t have our vaccines,” headlined the ‘Daily Mail’ tabloid; “Wait your turn. The selfish EU wants our vaccines,” said the ‘Daily Express’, in two samples of the rarefied relationship left by the rough British exit from the European club.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.