With the agreement reached between the EU and Johnson and the polls favouring Johnson in the 12 December elections, a possible end to Brexit is in sight.
▲ Installation against Brexit, during a protest in Manchester in 2017 [Robert Mandel, Wikimedia Commons].
COMMENTARY / Pablo Gurbindo
Since 23 June 2016, when the referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union was held, the British exit has overshadowed every other topic, such as the momentous last European elections, and has caused the British political spectrum to split between Remainers and Leavers.
Brexit has also taken two prime ministers with it: David Cameron, after the referendum, and his successor, Theresa May, who left position after failing to get her agreement reached with the EU to C through the British Parliament. And it may be her successor, Boris Johnson, the controversial former mayor of London who campaigned for the vote to leave the Union, who manages to lead his country out of more than three years of uncertainty.
Johnson's arrival at 10 Downing Street caused much concern in European capitals. From the outset, he stated that he would get his country out of the European Union, with or without agreement , before 31 October. And, in September, he did not hesitate to temporarily close the Parliament fail so that civil service examination could not veto a possible exit without agreement. This closure was declared illegal by the Supreme Court and civil service examination ensured that the hypothetical exit without agreement could only be agreed by Parliament. Despite all this, negotiations in Brussels did not stop and, on 17 October, it was announced that an agreement had been reached on a possible exit without . agreement.
The agreement reached is, to a large extent, similar to the one reached with Theresa May. The main change has been the Irish "safeguard", the section most criticised at the time by the civil service examination and by the most hardline wing of the "Tories". This measure implied that, if the European Union and the United Kingdom did not reach an agreement on agreement by 2020, Northern Ireland would remain in the single market and the customs union, while the rest of the United Kingdom would leave.
This system provoked a huge backlash, especially from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). May and Johnson depended and still depend on this Northern Irish Unionist party to be able to approve the agreement in the British Parliament. This concern over the new border between the two Irelands responds to the risk it poses to the Good Friday Agreements. These agreements brought peace back to Northern Ireland, which has been at loggerheads for the past century between Catholic groups, who advocated unification with Ireland, and Protestant Unionists, who advocated maintaining ties with the UK. The breakdown of these agreements could lead to a return to violence on the island.
This new agreement on Northern Ireland, proposed by Johnson, is based on three main elements, according to the EU's Brexit negotiator, the Frenchman Michel Barnier:
(1) Northern Ireland will continue to comply with certain EU customs rules, especially those relating to goods and products. However, in order to avoid any subject border with Ireland, checks will only be carried out on goods arriving at Northern Irish ports. These checks will be carried out by the British in compliance with EU rules.
(2) However, it will continue to be part of the British Customs Union, so any trade agreement that the UK achieves after Brexit will include Northern Ireland. The problem is that these two elements conflict: Northern Ireland would be part of both the British and EU customs unions. To solve the problem that could be caused by this "customs bicephaly", products from third countries - which do not subsequently move to another country in the common market - will be taxed at UK rates. But if the products are at risk of moving to the common market, the UK authorities will apply EU tariffs.
(3) Finally, the agreement with Johnson will be a permanent agreement unless the Northern Ireland Assembly decides otherwise. The agreement enables the Northern Ireland Assembly to vote on whether to maintain or abandon the agreed status after four years have elapsed since the protocol comes into force. In the event that they ratify the agreement it will be extended by four or eight years, depending on whether it is a simple majority or has majority support (with the support of the Protestant and Catholic communities). Otherwise, European laws will continue to apply for a further two years, during which time the EU and the UK will have to reach a new agreement.
The prorogation and calling of elections
After the advertisement of the agreement reached, the most complicated part remained: ratifying it in the British Parliament, and in record time, as the deadline was 31 October. Johnson was forced by Parliament to ask Brussels for an extension until 31 January 2020, contrary to his wishes to keep his promise to leave on 31 October. This request was not without controversy as Johnson sent two letters: one requesting the extension, which he did not sign, and another signed in which he said he would see the extension as a "mistake" and that it would be "deeply corrosive" to his country.
On 29 October, the European committee accepted the extension to 31 January 2020 to allow time for the ratification of agreement Exit. The United Kingdom could leave the Union earlier, on 1 December 2019 (a date that has already passed) or on 1 January 2020 in the event that both parties ratify the support. This extension was unanimously approved by the EU-27, despite France's reluctance. France argued that this long extension should only be granted if there was certainty that there would be elections in the UK; otherwise, they argued for a shorter technical extension, so that there would be time to ratify agreement Exit.
To carry out Brexit, Johnson, faced with "parliamentary obstructionism", called for early elections to change the arithmetic of Parliament and to be able to approve the agreement reached with the EU. This call was rejected twice by Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, the main party of the civil service examination. But after learning that the European committee accepted the extension, it supported the call.
With elections scheduled for 12 December, the wind seems to be blowing in Johnson's favour. The polls favour him with 40% of the vote. Far behind, Labour, with 29%, would lose support to Jo Swinson's Liberal Democrat Party, which would rise to 15% (from 7.4% in the previous election). This rise of the Lib Dems is mainly due to their strong support for remaining in the EU, unlike Corbyn, who has maintained a neutral position despite the fact that 70% of Labour voters support remaining in the EU. On the other hand, the Conservative majority would allow the Tories to stop relying on the DUP to achieve sufficient parliamentary majorities.
As if that were not enough, the leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage, has announced that in order to facilitate a Conservative majority, his party will not stand in the constituencies where the Conservative Party won in the previous elections. In order to ensure the UK's exit from the Union and avoid a new referendum.
If these polls come true, Johnson would obtain his long-awaited majority to be able to approve the exit.
After more than three years a plausible end to Brexit is in sight.