“PARIS — It is done at last. On Jan. 1, with the Brexit transition period over, Britain will no longer be part of the European Union’s single market and customs union. The departure will be ordered, thanks to a last-minute deal running to more than 1,200 pages, but still painful to both sides. A great loss will be consummated.
Loss for the European Union of one of its biggest member states, a major economy, a robust military and the tradition, albeit faltering, of British liberalism at a time when Hungary and Poland have veered toward nationalism.
Loss for Britain of diplomatic heft in a world of renewed great power rivalry; of some future economic growth; of clarity over European access for its big financial services industry; and of countless opportunities to study, live, work and dream across the continent.
The national cry of “take back control” that fired the Brexit vote in an outburst of anti-immigrant fervor and random grievances withered into four and a half years of painful negotiation pitting a minnow against a mammoth. Posturing encountered reality. The British economy is less than one-fifth the size of the bloc’s. President Trump is leaving office, and with him goes any hope of a rapid offsetting British-American trade agreement.
“Brexit is an act of mutual weakening,” Michel Barnier, the chief European Union negotiator, told the French daily Le Figaro.
But the weakening is uneven. Britain is closer to fracture. The possibility has increased that Scotland and Northern Ireland will opt to leave the United Kingdom and, by different means, rejoin the European Union. The bloc, by contrast, has in some ways been galvanized by the trauma of Brexit. It has overcome longstanding obstacles, lifted its ambitions and reignited the Franco-German motor of closer union.
“Brexit i not good news for anyone, but it has unquestionably contributed to a reconsolidation of Europe, which demonstrated its unity throughout the negotiations,” François Delattre, the secretary-general of the French foreign ministry, said.
The European Union — prodded by Brexit, facing the coronavirus pandemic, and confronting the hostility of Mr. Trump — has done things previously unimaginable. It has taken steps in a quasi-federal direction that Britain always opposed.
Germany abandoned a tenacious policy of austerity. The federalization of European debt, long taboo for the Germans, became possible. The European Union can now borrow as a government does — a step toward sovereign stature and a means to finance the $918 billion pandemic recovery fund that a British presence would probably have blocked.
“Brexit made Angela Merkel willing to abandon positions that had been sacred,” said Karl Kaiser, a former head of the German Council on Foreign Relations. “There has long been a debate about widening or deepening the European Union. Well, it has deepened.” . . .
Thank you Roger Cohen, your reporting is like Visa and Mastercard, priceless. I am thinking of a second story to organize. Was Brexit possibly the brainchild or Vladimir Putin of Russia, or did the Russians really help push the Brexit vote into victory? It appears that the only real winner of Brexit, is Russia. I read that the largest google search the UK after the historic and tragic vote was, “What is Brexit?” Is it true that the cheapest and least professional newspapers, especially Rupert Murdoch’s, pushed the Brexit division along, in a publishing war, for who could sell the most scandal mongering tabloids, and did the main stream papers make the mistake of competing with some of their own junk. What a colossal mess. It has been a fabulous four years for Putin. Maybe Time Magazine missed a beat this week, when they named Biden and Harris as Person of the Year, when the big winner of 2020 was Vladimir Putin.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs about the environment at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com.