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Political Observation - The Fallouts of Brexit & the Trade Deal
Britain and the European Union (EU) reached a Brexit trade deal on Thursday 24 December 2020. UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said “everything that the British public were promised during the 2016 referendum and in the general election last year is delivered by this deal,” while the EU described the deal as “fair and balanced”.
Boris Johnson told a press conference “we have taken back control of laws and our destiny… with full control of our waters” …. and for the first time since 1973 we will be an independent coastal state”. Since the British withdrawal from the EU and Brexit trade deal will have a host of consequences on Euro-British relations and since it is linked to America’s strategy towards the EU, it is imperative to review the role of the US in this event.
The Euro-British relationship had been marked by significant incoherence due to the “principle of sovereignty” and due to Britain’s bias in favour of the US in most continental and international issues, particularly the issue of European security, NATO and economic affairs.
The principle of sovereignty is the centre of attention for the British people and their historical heritage. Britain views sovereignty and authority as the competency of her parliament, and this was the source of her problems with the EU legislations and with her implementation of the European courts’ laws.
Britain and the EU needed to urgently reach an agreement to avert disrupting their trade, the size of which is in excess of one trillion dollars, before the 11-month transitional period expired. At the beginning of the month, a week of intense negotiations on Britain’s post-transition commercial and financial relationship with the EU ended in a stalemate with European and British media reports citing “significant differences” such as the EU’s insistence on fishing quotas in British waters, an issue that France raised, in addition to its insistence on implementing the principle of parity on state subsidies for businesses and the mechanism for the resolution of disputes.
Had a deal not been reached, World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Tax and Customs Authority rules would have been implemented on the commercial and financial dealings between the two sides.
The Cold War between America and the Soviet Union split the world into two camps, capitalist and communist, or “freedom” and “totalitarianism”, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the start of the American campaign against Islam, the Balkan war, the war on “terror”, and the significant increase in emigration, legal and illegal, a sweeping nationalist and patriotic sentiment was injected into the world political atmosphere to the point where it became a reactionary atmosphere nurturing the clash of ideological identities and causing the fragmentation of states and standpoints on sectarian and factional grounds, as was the case in the Middle East and the Muslims’ lands, and on the grounds of patriotic and nationalist identity and racial and regional discrimination in the European political atmosphere and the British intellectual and political atmosphere in particular, ever since the British establishment began implementing the devolution policy in 1999 during Tony Blair’s tenure which involved transferring some competencies of sovereignty to regional parliaments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, followed by granting major cities the right to elect their mayors, as was the case with Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham among others.
Although it was natural for the masses of those regions to think more about local issues and shape their political concepts and opinions according to the reality of local events, polarisation of opinions and standpoints on nationalistic and continental grounds, in addition to the radical transformation and public divisions due to international and geopolitical issues, such as emigration, the integration of the Muslims and national sovereignty, namely legislation and border protection, has imposed the approach that determines, protects and distinguishes the policies pertinent to national identity, exactly like what Macron is currently carrying out in terms of bullying French Muslims to preserve the secularist identity of the state.
The British political elite exploited the right-wing media to fuel the polarisation between the calls for nationalism and patriotic sovereignty and the calls for European unity, by demonising the “opportunist” immigrants, criminal gangs, and minorities refusing to integrate into democratic values and isolating themselves from society. That political elite propagated that the “whites” were paying the price for the decrease in salaries, and exploited this notion in the elections, as was the case with Donald Trump in the US.
Far-right parties like the Lega Nord led by Matteo Salvini in Italy, and the Alternative for Germany, as well as right-wing parties in Austria, Poland, the Netherlands, and France, exploited the growing public opinion against immigration and are in favour of closing borders to influence elections and racist policies. This trend gathered momentum in Western countries and was epitomised in the ascendency of far-right parties in all Western countries, even in the countries that had endured the fascist experiment such as Italy and Germany. All this has been nurtured through an artery from the other side of the Atlantic in a programmed and systematic manner which prepared the grounds for the separatist calls to grow louder and void the EU of its political potency, turning it into a skeleton that America could dress with the attire that suits her objective, namely keeping the EU within its economic framework and preventing it from political jostling and military and security independence.
In this context, i.e., the context of the political atmosphere and the nationalistic intellectual orientation nurtured by the US, we can explain the British separatist trend and the US standpoint towards the British withdrawal from the EU (Brexit). Despite Obama’s declared standpoints and his support for the Remain campaign, what was however being concocted in reality, especially in terms of inciting public opinion against immigration and terrorism, was geared towards exhorting Britain to withdraw from the EU, divide the united stance of the conventional major powers, place them on a collision course with the Islamic world in the name of liberal values, and deepen their dependence on America militarily after the exit of Britain who used to be a vital military powerbase to the EU.
The US aims to reshape the EU away from the red tape in Brussels; in December 2018, Pompeo for his part called for making the EU and its bureaucratic system more responsive and caring towards the masses, and for giving priority to the sovereign interests of nation states and reducing integration within a regional rigid bloc, and that vision was compatible with the vision of Margaret Thatcher that cropped up following the Rome summit of 1990.
Despite the Republican and Democrat administrations’ difference in the viewpoints and styles of dealing with the European states, be it at the level of bilateral relations or the level of dealing with the EU as a bloc, this does not however impact the American aims of keeping Europe dependent on America in security, military, political and economic matters. There is no difference between the two administrations at the strategic level, especially as the institutional trend allows each administration to work within the framework of the general policy, using the styles and plans that ensure the success of the state’s general policies.
During the tenure of Donald Trump, we noted that the opening statement of Dana Rohrabacher, head of the Sub-Committee on Foreign Affairs at the House of Representatives, which he delivered on 6 December 2017, expressed more clearly the American standpoint. He congratulated the British people following the results of the referendum by saying: “The Brexit vote represents a self-determination of the British people. It reflects an inherent desire of people to control their own destiny rather than be under the domination of another country or another group of countries.”
For his part, Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation, was quoted as saying: “Brexit embodies the very principles and ideals the American people hold dear to their hearts: self-determination, limited government, democratic accountability, and economic liberty. A truly free and powerful Great Britain is good for the United States.”
The US exhortation of the UK to leave the EU could also be deduced from the statements of Donald Trump and his praising of UK prime minister Theresa May, as well as his backing of the British government in the talks with the EU Commission, the pledges he made to Britain and the pledges he made to dissipate her fears of Obama’s warnings against the fallouts an exit from the EU would cause on the economic and financial side, and to the Anglo-American special relationship. Those statements were made during Theresa May’s visit to the White House a week after he took the oath of office. He claimed that Britain would get a strong and comprehensive trade deal. However, British negotiators soon realised during the initial negotiations that Trump’s policy leaned towards maximising the benefit of Britain’s need for a trade deal. This was corroborated by the head of the American Brexit Committee who said that “in our negotiations, we are seeking to achieve maximum benefit for America.” This explains the American dictates and conditions which were unfair and harmful to Britain and which America could not achieve had Britain still been a member of the EU, and could not achieve through her previous negotiations with the EU. America took a negative approach by voting at the WTO against the agreement between Britain and the EU on sharing the agricultural produce trade quota of the EU. She incited Brazil to object to the deal and then voted in favour of Brazil’s objection.
America also included a host of harsh conditions to the new civil air transport agreement since the US-EU open skies treaty no longer applies to Britain. And to add insult to injury, America stipulated that Britain should review her procedural and organisational system to match the system adopted in America, thus reducing her chances of achieving an agreement with the 27 member states of the EU and allowing her products to be freely circulated within the EU. America also urged Britain to open her national health service for US companies, which means privatising the NHS, something the British electorates reject.
This American capitalist, opportunist and greedy trend was expressed by former French ambassador to Washington, Gérard Araud, in an interview with the Guardian on 19 April 2019 where he said: “Basically, this president and this administration don’t have allies, don’t have friends. It’s really [about] bilateral relationships on the basis of the balance of power and the defence of narrow American interests.” He added: “They [the Trump administration] are not thinking in terms of multilateral cooperation first. And secondly, they don’t have any affection towards the Europeans. They treat Europeans the way they treat the Chinese.” He warned Britain against the free trade deal it is seeking post-Brexit with America by saying: “And when the British come for a free-trade agreement, there will be blood on the walls and it will be British blood. It will be GMOs breakfast, lunch and dinner.” All this reveals that the US endeavoured to take Britain out of the EU in order to weaken it politically and militarily. Trump incited British prime minister Theresa May to be firm in the negotiations and said: “I gave the prime minister my ideas on how to negotiate it and I think you would have been successful. She didn’t listen to that and that’s fine.” Trump’s advice was exposed by Steve Bannon who said that president Trump told May to prepare a negotiation strategy that included exceeding the limits and targets of the demands in the withdrawal deal, and finalise the file within six months using all the cards in her possession, even the legal arrangements. Moreover, it is common knowledge that Tony Blair, the closest UK prime minister to America, was one of the first to call for a withdrawal from the EU, and he built his first political attempt at being nominated for the premiership on the notion of withdrawing from Europe.
Although the notion of the EU was most probably inspired by the US from the perspective of generating an equilibrium in Europe in the wake of the Second World War due to the impact of European differences on international peace and security, she however was aspiring to this within the framework of complementarity and economic interests, i.e., economic union. However, Europe’s drive towards more European integration through the Rome and Maastricht Treaties in the early nineties and the argument over sovereignty between British political forces had a major impact on the British political orientation and resulted in an open war erupting between senior members of the Conservative Party, in the removal of Thatcher and banishing the Tories from power for 13 years.
As a result of the domestic political bickering, the role of the media in shaping the public mood for electoral reasons, the Conservative Party’s mobilisation of its forces founded on the “white” component, David Cameron’s harnessing of the same media machine to lure “white” Britons, the British demographic structure which played a significant role in luring the electorate during the referendum on Brexit, and the ensuing course of events, all this culminated into the focus on the British identity and on mobilising public opinion and portraying the British “white” citizen as a foreigner in his own country; the issue of immigration, and the consequences of globalisation, as well as national sovereignty were politicised with the aim of building the programme of “determining a national identity and exploiting it for electoral purposes and political plans that led to the return of the Conservatives to power in 2010.
Due to the adversities that the political ruling elite faced between 2007 and 2012, such as moral and financial corruption, Blair’s lying to parliament, and the financial crisis to name but a few, and which evoked popular resentment against the establishment, the elite resorted to blaming “foreign powers”, which included Europe, immigration and the policy of free movement. This was exploited by the US-backed leader of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, to influence the masses’ tendencies in favour of leaving the EU, and to bolster the popularity of his party at the expense of the Conservatives.
The political elite were not expecting the contact Farage had had with US right-wing workforce under Steve Bannon’s leadership, and with members of Donald Trump’s campaign, namely Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, as well as Steve Assange, and his harnessing of Cambridge Analytica and social networking, to deepen the popular resentment to the point where it split the country into two camps over Brexit.
In light of the efforts nurtured by Steve Bannon and the role he played in shoring up the European right-wing, Trump’s support for Boris Johnson, who championed Brexit to assume power, and Trump’s scathing attack on Obama’s standpoint towards the British issue, the position of the US became clear in supporting Britain’s exit from the EU within the framework of the American policy that aims at raising the controversy of identity, not just in America, Britain and Europe, but in the whole world, so that America may remain “first”, i.e., so that she may maintain her supremacy and dominion over the world’s crises and international relations. It is clear that America is behind pushing Europe through the controversy on the identity that Macron is leading due to his hatred and stupidity, to generate a confrontation between Europe and Muslims on the one hand, and Europe and China on the other, in order to control and conduct international relations in a manner guaranteeing her unilateral dominion over the international situation and achieving her interests. America set about tampering with the dynamism of the British political elite in 2014, and nurtured right-wing tendencies through logistical and technical support by mobilising the Breitbart News Network and turning it into a formidable force deep inside British politics; and this was corroborated by Farage who was quoted as saying after the referendum “thank you Breitbart”. The reason behind America’s undertaking is her belief that Brexit will inevitably lead to restructuring the EU and its institutions within a continental bloc whose views will be divided and its need for the US will be greater.
Britain’s withdrawal from the EU would undoubtedly not have taken place had it not been for the issue of absolute national sovereignty of the legal system and parliament, which to the British masses, are of major importance more than any other people from among the member states; the issue of sovereignty had always been a formidable obstacle in the face of Britain’s integration into the European project. Former Labour Party leader, Hugh Gaitskell, a celebrated opponent of Britain’s integration into Europe, described Britain’s membership of the Common Market as "the end of a thousand years of history". Since the Maastricht Treaty, Britain had been consistently seeking exemptions from European treaties and organisations; hence, she was the least integrated member in the EU. In his book titled “An Awkward Partner: Britain in the European Community”, Professor Stephen George attributed Britain’s issue with the EU to the “the distinctiveness of the identity and culture of the UK in contrast to that of continental Europe”, which he deemed as Britain’s main grievance with the integrated European project, as the British political elite supported working on the basis of organised inter-governmental cooperation, contrary to the European penchant for federalism and supranational organisation (Brussels), and was in favour of a united market rather than a fiscal union. He also mentioned the great importance the British political elite gave to the right to defend national sovereignty and take its decisions in London as a nation state.
10 Jumada al-Oolah 1442h
24 December 2020