Europe after the Brexit (#5)

(Like Europe, this page is under construction ...)

This page is an attempt to follow the most important events resulting from the Brexit (including the British referendum itself) and to (try to) explain what it could mean for France and how it is perceived in France and in other European countries.
How it is perceived in France ...
.... and in the other European countries
June 23, 2016

In Britain, 52% of the people vote to leave the European Union (a majority in England and Wales, a minority inScotland and Northern Ireland).

A negotiation will begin only after the UK notifies it to the EU (Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon).

  • For many, the UK has never been considered a reliable partner and it will not be missed (this relates to the traditional Anglo-French antagonism)
  • Only the Extreme-Right (Front National) and the Extreme Left made positive statements about Brexit (Frexit is in their policy)
  • Read my column (in 2011!) : "Good news for Europe : UK steps out"
  • Most countries are deeply shocked : Poland because of the xenophobia behind Brexit, Spain because of the influence of Scotland on Catalonia, ...
  • Some countries may be tempted to follow UK and leave the EU : Denmark ?
July 13 Theresa May, British PM
  • no comment
  • no comment
October nothing happens ....
  • many people fear a British strategy : playing with time to exhaust and divide the European countries
  • this is the general European feeling
Nov. 9 Donald Trump elected
  • the new US president is considered an additional complication to the situation created by the Brexit
Jan.2017 Six months after the Brexit, the anti-Europe movements observe that is is much more difficult to leave the union than to talk about leaving, and all of them (5-Stelle in Italy, Front National in France, AfD in Germany) are now keeping a lower profile about leaving. In the European Parliament, 5-Stelle now considers splitting with UKIP.
Jan 18 The British PM announces a "hard Brexit" and threatens to turn Britain into a giant tax haven if she does not reach a satisfactory agreement
  • shocked by the tone used by the British PM
  • ready for a tough negotiation
Jan. Newly elected president Trump officially supports the Brexit and wishes more countries will follow the UK
  • it is largely considered an additional sign of the allegiance of the UK to the US
  • it depends on the country ...
Feb. The British Parliament examines a law authorizing the government to start the process of Brexit with the E.U. It is voted on March14.  
  • March 14, the Scottish PM announces a referendum on independence in 2018
Dec. 2017 The first step of Brexit is agreed between UK and the EU : what UK owes to EU (40 to 50 billion Euros), the status of expats on boths sides and the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
  • The French are always wary of the well-known British ability in negotiating...
  • Some of them are very upset with Britain (like Poland)
Mid. Nov.2018 Pro-Brexit hit by reality : After an almost-20-month negotiation, the UK and the UE reach an agreement on the conditions of Brexit. It is considered extremely disadvantageous on the British side, pro and anti Brexit together. If it is not validated by the British parliament, there will be "no-deal Brexit". The deadline is March 29, 2019.
  • UK should have thought more before about what would happen in case of Brexit
  • Total unanimity on the European side (for once) : "sorry : that's the contract". Since the begining of the EU, it is the first time a country leaves the EU.
Jan.16 2019 The British parliament votes (by a very large majority : 432 out of 650) against the agreement reached by the British government with the European Commission. Second vote on the same issue March 13, with the same result.
  • The British opinion seems to see no best solution between Brexit with or without a deal with Europe and another referendum with or without the same result.
  • The other country cannot believe the unpreparedness of the UK.
March 29, 2019 After the third vote in the UK Parliament refusing the agreement negotiated between the British government and the EU, the probability of a "no-deal" Brexit has become very high
  • The British domestic politicking about the Brexit is considered totally irresponsible
  • The (unexpected) solidarity of 27 countries in the negociation can be explained by the incomprehensible attitude of the British
April 2019 The UK obtains another extension of the deadline (to Octobre 31) ; one of the most absurd consequences of it is that Britain will have to organize the European elections in May and send 73 deputies to te European parliament.
  • Just absurd ...
  • Sick and tired ...
May 26, 2019 British Prime Minister Teresa May resigns, unable to have a treaty with UE approved by the parliament
  • Sorry for her...
  • All members states are exasperated
July 2, 2019 The newly elected European parliament is inaugurated in Strasbourg (with 73 British members !)
  • Disgraceful !
July 25, 2019 Boris Johnson, new PM, confirms that UK will leave the UE with or without a deal
  • We already had one Trump to deal with, now we have two
  • B.Johnson is the psychological profile the Germans hate the most : unpredictable, excentric, a lier.

It is clear that the policy of Boris Johnson is only to proclaim that if UK leaves the EU with a "no-deal", which will seriously hurt his country, it will be the fault of the mean EU "who refused to negotiate a deal". The poor UK voter (who has been fooled from the veru beginning) should remember that a deal had been negotiated and signed, after more than two years of procrastination on the UK's side, but for the British government, when you want a divorce, you do not have to pay your part of the debts of the family and pay an allemony to your spouse... Be ready to hear the British government complain endlessly about how unfairly it has been treated by the mean Europeans ! Read my column about the way the British are handling the Brexit issue...

Boris Johnson campaigning for the Brexit in 2016 (he later acknowledged that what's written on the bus is just a plain lie...)
Aug.28 The decision of PM Johnson to suspend the British parliament until Oct.14 raises furious reactions in UK ; finally, the Supreme Court ruled against the PM
  • No comment
  • No comment
Oct.19 A new agreement has been negotiated between UK and the EU : the British parliament votes NOT to vote about it
  • Ah, those Brits...
  • It's been a long time since Europeans gave up understanding the attitude of Britain about the Brexit.
Oct.28 The British government asks for and obtains a new deadline : Jan.31, 2020
  • We feel good! (sometimes we believe that our political life is the most ridiculous in the world) ...
  • This must be the VERY LAST postponement
Dec.12, 2019 The spectacular victory of Boris Johnson in the elections makes a ratification of the Brexit very likelybefore Jan.31, 2020.
  • At last, but let's be ready to have to deal with a difficult competitor at our door
  • Let's be ready for a long and difficult negotiation about all the technical details
Jan.31, 2020

The Brexit is done !

The final step is to renegociate the 600+ international agreements UK is part of before Dec.31, 2020. If there is no agreement, it will be a no-deal Brexit.

  • It's already in the past...
  • The 27 European countries will show the same solidarity in the final phase.
April 2020 As of Apr.30, the British governement has not started yet negotiating seriously with the EU, neither has it mentioned an extension of the delay. Is it expecting a no-deal ?
  • It was in the past : nobody cares
  • Probably the same as France
July 3020 Still no serious negotiation : UK wants a no deal
  • No-deal seems very llkely
  • EU must be ready to deal with an aggressive UK after the term of the "negotiation" period
Dec.25, 2020 Finally, the negotiators agree on a deal after an excruciating final session
  • A divorce is never a happy event, but the reaction is : Ouf! (as we say : we feel relieved)
  • The general feeling that Brexit is obviously a loss for Europe but the general feeling is also that the resignation of such a difficult and selfish partner will make everything easier in the future for the other members.

This final step puts an end to this page (but of course not to post-Brexit negociations, which will never end...). The British decision was, of course, the absolute right of the British people but I consider it a a tragic historical mistake and a disaster for both Europe and Britain. Europe will miss the Brits, as painful as they have been as partners in the EU and, willing or not, Britain will always be a European country and a significant part of the European culture.

Read the list of the good or (most likely) bad events in the UK/EU relation since the Brexit (January 2021)

Some of the main issues of Brexit




.... and specifically for France

The Brexit will lead to long negotiations mostly between the UK and the EU, some bilateral and others internal within some European countries (U.K./Scotland, for example). Some of them could be favorable to the E.U. and others not.  Here is a tentative list of the main issues :

  • A key fact : the European Union represents around 50% of UK’s foreign trade when  UK represents only 7% of EU’s foreign trade : it is probably more important and more urgent for UK to reach an agreement than for EU.
  • (of course) In the negotiation UK/EU, the UK will try to keep some of the advantages of being a member of the EU (access to a large free trade zone, free access for financial services and capital flows, participation in the successful European projects like Airbus, free circulation of British citizens, etc) and refuse any form of reciprocity ; the UK will possibly be helped by some countries (like Denmark) against the interests of the EU. Read my column about UK and Europe.
  • The Brexit may have a direct impact on the stability of some countries with a stronger desire for independence of provinces who are attached to their own culture, some of them rich and powerful like Scotland (UK), Flanders (Belgium) or Catalonia (Spain), others less so like Corsica (France) plus a possible very serious impact on Northern Ireland and Gibraltar

  • The Brexit may put an end to the negotiations over a commercial transatlantic treaty (TTIP) between the USA and the EU

  • The Brexit will seriously impact the important British community in France (400,000 ?) : the many retirees will receive a pension in devaluated sterling, the others will lose access to the labor market, the agreement with NHS will be void, etc.

  • It will be the end of the enlargement of the EU : probably forever for Turkey and for a few years at least for the Balkan countries (Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo)

  • As of today, it is hard to predict what might happen on the other major political issues : how to make a clearer difference between the countries who want essentially a free trade zone and those who try to go further toward a kind of an European confederation, how to improve the governance of the EU, how to address the problems raised by the important flow of migrants and many others . . .

  • Other issues :

    • Language : why would English play such an important role when it is now the official language of only two countries (Ireland and Malta) representing less than 3% of the population ? (Read more about languages in Europe)
    • More to come...
  • More to come . . .

DID YOU KNOW THAT .....? The Brexit was a shock for Europe (and for UK too...) but it was not unexpected. From the very beginning, UK joined the club with the project to use it for its own interest only and if possible to change the rules. This policy was supported by a popular press which has been hysterically anti-European. Do you want an example ? Read this list of falsehood published in the British press in 2003.

Back to the Hundred Years War ?

Many specific issues to address for France and the French :

  • Existing cooperations : Today, the most advanced and efficient bilateral military cooperation is between the UK and France, the two most powerful armies in the (former) EU : how will it work in the future ?

  • Previous stupid statetments : Can you say 'finance is my only enemy' (President Hollande, 2012) and raise taxes to an absurd level and, four years later, announce that in Paris, the red carpet is ready for the businesses who will have to leave London for continental Europe (President Hollande, 2016) ?

  • Intra-European migrants : migration was the key-issue of Brexit, but what about the 400,000 British citizens who live in France (often retired) and the 300 to 400,000 French citizens who live and work in London ?

  • More to come . . .

Some immediate consequences of Brexit and various related UK/EU incidents

  • The 73 British members of the European Parliament elected in 2019 left it as of Jan.31, 2020 as well as the top official British members of the European institutions.
  • The 757 British citizens elected on a municipal council in France were not be able to run in the receny municipal elections in Marchand June 2020 (same thing in other countries of course)
  • The 3+ million European residents in UK will have to go through a relatively heavy administrative process to obtain the "settled status" before Dec.31.
  • It looks like UK doesn't want to negotiate about the fishing zones issue : a "fishing war" is to be anticipated
  • Feb.2021 : British fishermen, who exported more than 50% to EU discover that, since fish, scallops, etc do not keep long, they export much less now that UK doesn't belong to the common market and imported products mus go through custom
  • May 6, 2021 : the UK government does not respect the December 2020 UK/EU agreement on fishing zones and blocks the access of a large part of UK territorial zones to French fishing boats. In retaliation, French fishermen blocade Jersey and the French government threatens to cut the electricity supply of Jersey (which comes from France!). A new "Hundred Years War", like in the 14th century ?
  • ....
To related pages : more facts on Europe (#1), building(#2), European institutions (#3), European facts & figures (#4), issues and achievements (#6), etc.

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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