The draft Brexit agreement negotiated until the end of 2018 by former British Prime Minister Theresa May with the EU Commission included, after formalization of the “divorce” of the two parties, a transitional step with a “Backstop” – measure intended to prevent the establishment of an inter-Irish border between the EU Group and United Kingdom (UK), i.e. between the Republic of Ireland (a sovereign state member of UE) and Northern Ireland (an integral part of the UK) – But as a consequence of that arrangement, Britain would have to be remaining in EU customs, the time for the “two divorced” to define a lasting solution that would guarantee integrity of the single market (requirement of the EU Commission) while maintaining a smooth flow of goods and people within Ireland (Irish-British requirement). However, as it stands, the abovementioned draft agreement does not provide any answer as to the actual date of exit of United Kingdom from EU custom rules. This is likely to paralyze any attempt by the UK to seek commercial relations on its own behalf with other non-EU countries. Considering that this constraint is unacceptable, the British parliamentarians (British is equivalent to English for this article) have refused the Brexit project (in its different forms) presented by Mrs. Theresa May.
After Mrs. May, it is the turn of Mr. Boris Johnson, new British Prime Minister, to face the EU leaders for the continuation of the settlement of this issue of “Divorce” UK / EU. Mr. Johnson has, in essence, introduced a new approach, radically different from that imposed on Mrs. May for Brexit negotiations that consisted indeed for former Prime Minister to come up with proposals to be agreed on by the UE. Mr. Johnson transferred kind “Stress” to the EU by making them understand that he is not ready to do any such proposals and it belongs to UE to come forward with a Brexit-plan for the UK to agree on. The reasons for such a radical change of Paradigm on the part of the British do not seem obvious at first glance. However, we can reflect on the basis of Brexit information available to the public to try and see more clearly in this strategy.
Forty-six years ago, on the first of January 1973, UK saw its request (after other failures due mainly to the opposition of President de Gaulle) to join the common market (which was to become the EU) finally accepted. The Republic of Ireland, in the furrow of UK, entered the single market at the same moment. At that time, an English engineer was paid an average monthly salary of about three hundred Swiss francs, equivalent to what was paid to Swiss trainee apprentices aged between sixteen and eighteen. This to say that the English economy was living a dramatic empty passage and the English tried at all costs to hang their wagon to a big locomotive to revitalize their economy. Once in the European community, the English have rolled up their sleeves and worked hard to regain their industrious spirit equivalent to that of the “Made in Germany“. Since then, the rise of the British stature has not ceased to strengthen to this day. Moreover, the English have always been a net contributor to the EU project, that is, they gave more direct money to the EU than they received in return.
Since Referendum of 2016, basically in tune with President Trump’s last speech to the United Nations, indicating that a country that has self-confidence does not need to protect itself under the umbrella of any Bloc – alluding of course to the EU Bloc as judged by the subsequent intervention on the same platform of the President of the European Council, Mr. Donald Tusk -, the British want to illustrate this self-confidence by expressing their desire to trace (again) their own journey among the nations by themselves and for themselves. But, the question of why what Theresa May negotiated less than a year ago (Backstop) seems suddenly obsolete for the new Prime Minister remains full! In addition, Mr. Johnson gives the impression now of wanting to negotiate with the EU in a position of strength!
In this respect, although the EU (without the English) still has 27 countries, the Franco-German tandem is the duo that has the greatest influences on the direction of economic and trade policy vis-à-vis other third countries. The English, who will have stayed almost half a century in the EU, know it very well. Moreover, with regard to Africa (the EU’s still guarded hunt) and its agricultural resources, an area of interest to this Blog, Germany’s voice exists but it is often shaped by that of France which considers itself at home in the French speaking Africa. For example, the German commercial and economic bodies operating in the private sector in Morocco (elsewhere in Africa probably too) are often run by French people who never forget to take into account the interest of France in their actions. To put it simply, France makes us understand that the French are helping us access the EU market and makes it clear to Germans and other members of the EU that they better do rely on France for their African business. But here, Africa also has a good half of English-speaking countries where the intervention of the English can be more important than that of the French. In this perspective, once out of the EU bloc, and Boris Johnson does not stop repeating that it will do so on October 31, the UK can be an equally relevant tool for a business to succeed in Africa, particularly in English speaking area. Germany, which has lost its former colonies thanks, in particular, to France’s diplomatic methods of retaliation (after the first great war), understands this dilemma and does not want to make a new mistake in ranging itself behind position of France in the Brexit negotiations. Reason why, probably, we saw German nuanced positions a few times closer to the English position than that of France. It seems that the English, who have well integrated this divergence of Franco-German views on the Brexit, have decided to take advantage of this gap to the maximum. They make it clear in their own way that the Brexit “Stress” is more on the side of EU than on the British one. In this context, they are already prospecting in Africa to promote, locally with us for example, a strategic relationship with the Kingdom of Morocco. In Southern Africa, they have undertaken to update their long-standing relations with this area of our Continent, etc.
On another level, the agricultural products needed by British consumers, who come now mainly from the EU, will be replaced by exports from Morocco and other African countries as early as November 1, which are more fresh and much cheaper. Germany, as far as it is concerned, is likely to have already prepared to establish a strong relationship with the UK post-Brexit to continue the privileged relations between the two countries. Under these conditions, the solution to maintain the integrity of the single market post-Brexit, essential according to the words of the chief negotiator of the EU Brexit, Mr. Michel Barnier, will remain a thorn in the feet of decision makers in Brussels. It is, as we understand it, the meaning to give to the “Stress” of Brexit which is now on the side of the EU. Considering lack of enthusiasm of Boris Johnson accepting a further extension of the UK’s stay in the EU Bloc, it is easy to deduce that this will be kind of Berezina within the EU Commission as soon as next Halloween. And this is, in our opinion, only the prelude to the other great catastrophe that awaits the EU Bloc with the painful dismantling predictable Euro zone that will not fail to follow.
We Africans will, for the first time, have the opportunity to offer our agricultural resources to several foreign buyers (putting them in competition), first among them US, UK and what will remain of the EU Bloc.