Brexit: bitter compromise for Europe

Editorial. Whatever the scenario, Brexit is now in sight, at least in principle. Because the essential will remain to negotiate

Time to Reading 3 min.

From left to right: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Head of EU Negotiators Michel Barnier, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Thursday 17 October 2019. FRANCISCO SECO / AP

Editorial of the "World". The decision of the British to leave the European Union represents a regression for the continent and reflects a collective failure. But, acquired at 51.9% in June 2016, it must be respected. The agreement on the terms of this departure, concluded Thursday, October 17 in Brussels, provides a clean break, a Brexit harder than that, fuzzy, which had been sold to voters. But, faced with the threat of a "no deal", it represents probably the least bad way to translate into reality the painful divorce of the citizens of the twenty-seven countries of the Union, but even more so those of the United Kingdom. United, are going to pay the price.

It is certainly not about " very good agreement for both the EU and the United Kingdom " boasted by Boris Johnson. But for the prime minister who came to power less than three months ago, he represents, at least in the immediate future, an undeniable political success. As for the twenty-seven EU states, they have saved the essentials: the integrity of the single market and the invisibility of the border between the two ireland.

In appearance, the text is based on reciprocal concessions about Northern Ireland, the Gordian knot of Brexit. Northern Ireland will be included in the UK customs zone, which the EU has refused so far. London, for its part, has accepted that a customs border separates Great Britain from Northern Ireland, a provision that"No British prime minister will ever accept" claimed Theresa May. Thus, the goods will be checked before entering Northern Ireland, but not at the land border with the Republic. In this way, the United Kingdom will be able to negotiate trade agreements with the rest of the world on a sovereign basis, Johnson's flagship promise.

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A very uncertain vote

In reality, the agreement, far from freeing itself from the Irish backstop, this provisional guarantee deemed detrimental to British sovereignty by the Brexit supporters, confirms it by perpetuating it. Northern Ireland will actually apply EU regulation. The complex mechanism to veto the Northern Ireland Regional Assembly has been designed in such a way that it is unlikely to operate.

Mr Johnson can rightly argue that Northern Ireland will benefit economically from joint membership in both customs unions. But it will be necessary to make it forget that the agreement, while reinforcing the idea of ​​an integrated economy of the island of Ireland, can favor its reunification and, besides, to nourish the claim for independence in Scotland, which, although having voted to stay in the EU, will not benefit from the privilege granted to Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson visibly shifts his staying in power before the unity of his country.

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But the relief offered by this compromise acceptable to the Europeans, due to the diplomatic talent, the phlegm and the patience of Michel Barnier, head of the EU negotiators, could be short-lived. Braced on his promise of a Brexit " at all costs ", Boris Johnson has chosen to override the opposition of the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). As a result, the vote on the text, Saturday, October 19 in the Parliament of Westminster looks very uncertain.

Certainly, Johnson could benefit from the momentum that triggered his success in Brussels. MEPs could also obey for fear of a catastrophic "no deal" and public anger at their repeated obstruction. If the Prime Minister fails to get the agreement approved, he will have to go back and ask for a postponement of the October 31 deadline for Brexit. Elections should follow, of which he could however come out victorious.

Whatever the scenario, Brexit is now in sight, at least in principle. Because the essential – the future trade agreement between the Twenty-Seven and the United Kingdom – will remain to be negotiated. Boris Johnson does not hide his intention to compete with Europe by imposing fiscal, social and environmental dumping. The British commitment to respect "Fair competition rules", maintained in the political declaration annexed to the agreement, is not binding. The Brexit Challenge will not go out with a "Deal". The subsequent trade negotiations will have to prevent the building of a tax haven at the gates of Europe.

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