After 47 years of membership, the UK officially left the EU in early 2021. The exit took place once the UK and the EU signed a trade agreement. The lack of a strong mechanism for cooperation between the two, and the ambiguities in TCA, will deepen their differences. Increasing the scope of disputes seems to be close to the political and diplomatic spheres.
UK Agreement with the EU: Fair or Extraordinaire?
Without an agreement, the UK and the EU would have had to impose extensive tariffs on their respective goods and services from 1 January 2021. The UK government has described the deal as “extraordinary”, while the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said it was “fair and balanced”. Although Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed the deal would remove any trade barriers between London and Brussels, the Office for National Statistics reported a 40.7% drop in exports to the EU and a 28.8% drop in imports from the bloc in January. Of course, these statistics are not surprising to economists.
Rising Social Divide in UK
A few years after the referendum on UK’s exit from the EU, which ended in a marginal difference in favour of Leave, the results of the latest opinion polls show that the gap in UK society continues to persist for Remain or Leave. Statistics show that if another referendum was held, the result would be in favour of continued membership in the EU by a small margin. Opinion polls by Savanta ComRes show that if the referendum was held again, 51% of people would vote to stay in the EU and 49% would vote to leave. According to the poll, 51% say society is divided and only 13% think otherwise.
Positive Attitude of EU Citizens Towards EU Membership
A Euronews poll found that a majority of EU citizens welcome UK’s return to the bloc. The Redfield and Wilton Strategies consulting firm has conducted a survey in four countries: France, Germany, Italy and Spain, with 1,500 participants in each of the four countries. A majority in all four said they would vote for their country to remain in the EU if a referendum were to be held. The majority of respondents to the poll also said they had a positive view of the EU and believed that membership in the EU would benefit their country.
The Outbreak of a Historical Controversy in Northern Ireland
Although tensions over Northern Ireland may be the most complex, immediate outcome of Brexit, Johnson also faces political nightmares over the Scottish crisis. A recent survey by the Savanta ComRes indicates that a higher percentage of Britons no longer oppose Scottish independence. Findings show that 32% of those asked opposed the idea of Scottish independence, but just 20% said they “strongly” opposed the idea.
However, 25% of those asked said they support the prospects of Scotland becoming independent, with 30% having no strong opinion or opposition. In other words, 68% of the British public do not object to the disintegration of the country and the withdrawal of the Scots from the alliance With the UK.
Great opportunity for Scottish Nationalists
The Scottish National Party is pursuing independence and growing in popularity every day. Scottish society has become completely bipolar, and although pressure from Scottish leaders to hold a referendum has been hampered by London, hopes for a Scottish victory are growing. Scotland’s pro-independence parties, when they won a majority in parliament, announced that the groundwork had been laid for a strong political and legal struggle for Scottish independence. First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said in a statement that there was no doubt that the Scottish Parliament would have a majority in favour of independence, and by any ordinary measure of democracy, this majority must live up to its commitment to the people of Scotland.
Company Departures from the UK
The initial level of impact in leaving the EU will be the impoverishment of the UK, because it will be difficult for British companies to establish business relations with European countries after Brexit, leading to reduced trade between the UK and the EU. Until now, many international companies have used the UK as a gateway to the EU, but many are now looking to relocate from London. Presently, Paris has become a popular city for foreign companies.
The UK departure from the EU pushed more than 440 financial firms to move at least some of their operations, staff, assets or legal entities from the UK to the bloc. This includes 126 asset management firms, 81 banks and 65 insurance companies, according to a report published by New Financial, a London-based think tank.
There’s little consensus on Europe’s next financial hub, with London’s outgoing assets shared out among cities including Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam and Dublin, according to the report. “Firms are migrating to or expanding in multiple financial centers as many firms have either split the location of their EU business by division, or have responded to Brexit by spreading their staff more evenly across the EU,” New Financial said. More changes are coming, according to the think-tank. The results of the same study show that nearly 7,400 jobs left the UK influenced by Brexit, but apparently matters related to these relocations were accompanied by delays due to travel restrictions imposed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
Reduced UK Exports to the EU
Exports of British goods to the EU fell by 40.7% in January, the biggest monthly decline in British trade with Europe in 20 years. Exports of goods to the EU fell by £5.6bn in the first month after the UK left the EU, the UK’s Office for National Statistics said. Imports fell by 28.8%, or 6.6 billion pounds. Exports of food and live animals to the EU suffered the most, falling by 63.6% in January. Shipments of fish and oysters also fell by 83% year-on-year to £16 million. UK’s gross domestic product fell by 4.9% in January, the biggest drop in a year.
Large UK Companies Have Incurred Great Damages
Two months after the UK left the EU on trade terms agreed by Boris Johnson’s government, research by the manufacturing trade group Make UK has shown that 74% of firms in a survey of more than 200 leading industrial companies are facing delays with EU imports and exports. The survey shows that more than half of British companies have complained about the rising costs of disrupted global trade due to the coronavirus pandemic, Brexit and customs inspections. In addition, more than a third of commercial companies have lost sales, and fears that this situation will continue have led to a slump in their business.
The UK is still at the beginning of the post-Brexit road, and it is too early to give a full account of the various consequences of this change on the country. In the new agreement, the UK has given many concessions to the EU to tell the people that they have reached an agreement so that they can put an end to four and a half years of struggle.
The UK did not gain any privileges in this agreement, and what is interpreted as maintaining sovereignty or taking control of the country and its destiny is practically meaningless with the restrictions imposed by this agreement. In the long run, facts will replace the excitement and propaganda, and the UK will realise the great benefits it has lost by leaving the EU. Social divisions have deepened and challenged national unity in the UK.