Table of Contents:
Britain and E.U. Reach Landmark Deal on Brexit: Mark Landler and Stephen Castle, NY Times, Dec. 24, 2020
Lessons from Britain’s Brexit Breakthrough: Melanie Phillips, JNS, Dec. 31, 2020
The End of a Wonderful Friendship and the Beginning of Trade Woes: Rosalind Matheson, Bloomberg Businessweek, Dec. 2, 2020
Europe Can’t Fight anti-Semitism While Ignoring Threats to Israel: David Harris, Politico, Dec. 14, 2020
Britain and the European Union struck a hard-fought trade agreement on Thursday, settling a bitter divorce that stretched over more than four years and setting the terms for a post-Brexit future as close neighbors living apart. The deal, which must be ratified by the British and European Parliaments, came together in Brussels after 11 months of grinding negotiations, culminating in a last-minute haggle over fishing rights that stretched into Christmas Eve, just a week before a year-end deadline.
Despite running to thousands of pages, the agreement leaves critical parts of the relationship to be worked out later. And it will not prevent some disruption to trade across the English Channel, since British exports will still be subjected to some border checks, adding costs for companies and causing potential delays at ports. But it is nonetheless a landmark in the long-running Brexit drama — the bookend to Britain’s departure from the European Union in January and a blueprint for how the two sides will coexist after severing deep ties built over a 47-year relationship. A failure to come to terms could have left Britain and the European Union in a bitter standoff, poisoning relations for years to come.
“It was a long and winding road, but we have got a good deal to show for it,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm. “This moment marks the end of a long voyage.”
Brexit began as a project to assert British sovereignty and throw off the constraints of Brussels. Fueled by anti-immigrant fervor and a belief that an independent Britain would fare better in a changing world, it became at times an insoluble riddle — how to unravel more than 40 years of ties without inviting chaos.
As the debate played out, the world shifted around Britain. Rising populists like President Trump erected barriers to trade; the pandemic put globalism on the defensive; and the victory of Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the American presidential election called the go-it-alone ethos of Brexit into question. To allow enough time to confront these issues, Britain agreed to continue abiding by most of the rules and regulations of the European Union until the end of this year while negotiators hashed out new arrangements to govern a vast cross-Channel trade, valued at more than $900 billion a year. If approved, the agreement will take effect on Jan. 1, four and a half years after a narrow majority of people in Britain voted to leave the European Union, plunging the country into rancorous debate and political divisions.
For Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, who won a landslide election victory in 2019 vowing to “get Brexit done,” the deal allows him to fulfill that promise. He sounded triumphant when speaking shortly after the announcement. “We’ve taken back control of our laws and our destiny,” he said.
“For the first time since 1973,” Mr. Johnson said, “we will be an independent coastal nation with full control of our own waters.”
But to get there, the prime minister had to make significant concessions, especially on rules that cover state aid to businesses and European rights to continue fishing in those waters. Britain will subscribe to “level playing field” principles, hewing closely to European Union standards and regulations for the foreseeable future. Should disputes arise, they will be settled through arbitration rather than the automatic penalties that the European Union had been demanding. The European Court of Justice, anathema to Brexiteers, will have no role. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
This New Year’s day, Britain finds itself in a position that few expected even as late as last week. With the arrival of 2021, it regains its status as an independent, sovereign nation governed by laws passed by its own democratically elected parliament free of control by a foreign power. Brexit has finally been achieved. For those squinting at Britain from elsewhere, how this came about and what it amounts to might appear both bewildering and irrelevant to any other country’s concerns. In fact, what Britain has now so remarkably achieved, and how it did so, provides an object lesson in strategy and diplomacy for every democratic nation, not least when it comes to dealing with the Middle East or threats from foreign aggressors.
Although the United Kingdom formally left the European Union on Jan. 31, 2020, it entered into a transition period of 11 months within which to negotiate its future relationship with the E.U. The Europeans were determined not to give Britain any advantage that might enable it to prosper far more than E.U. member states ruled by Brussels. Since Britain obviously wanted to gain precisely that advantage, a battle was inevitable. But the E.U. made a fatal error. It failed to realize that Britain really meant what it said.
Eurocrats are locked into the progressive mindset that regards democratic national self-government as an impediment to transnational utopia. So the E.U. negotiators never took seriously the passionate desire of the British people to become once again an independent self-governing nation, as expressed in their 2016 Brexit referendum vote, nor the pledge by their prime minister, Boris Johnson, to honor that vote.
Moreover, the Eurocrats shared the attitude displayed by many in Britain who voted to remain in the E.U.—that the U.K. was too weak and useless to go it alone in the world. The European negotiators assumed that, regardless of Britain’s formal exit, it would still want to keep many of the advantages of E.U. membership and would therefore swallow the back-door control by Brussels that these would entail. Accordingly, even when Britain’s former prime minister Theresa May was dumped from office last year after trying to foist upon her country departure terms that would have turned it into an E.U. “vassal” state, the E.U. assumed that her successor, Boris Johnson, would prove equally feeble and pliable.
So when the British government maintained that sovereignty was its absolutely non-negotiable red line, the E.U. assumed that it was speaking with forked tongue. And when Johnson declared that he would opt for no deal at all rather than breach his sovereignty pledge, the E.U. didn’t believe him. Confident that he was an opportunist anxious to avoid compounding the damage done by Brexit, it offered terms designed to play upon what it assumed was Britain’s main weakness. This was its supposed desperation to safeguard what the E.U. believed to be the U.K.’s most valuable assets—the City of London financial center, the creative industries and the professions.
So to minimize disadvantage to these areas, the E.U. offered to keep them alone within the EU single market—and thus hook the U.K. under E.U. control in perpetuity. Certain that Britain would want to protect these assets, the E.U. was therefore astounded when it turned the offer down. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
When Xi Jinping visited London in 2015, aside from enjoying fish and chips and a beer at the pub with then-Prime Minister David Cameron, the Chinese president addressed a joint sitting of Parliament. Speaking in the Royal Gallery behind the House of Lords, he invoked Shakespeare’s The Tempest, telling lawmakers “what’s past is prologue.”
The visit was a roaring success. A Scottish wool cape was given to Xi’s wife, Peng Liyuan; its fit had been calculated using data technology to measure her size off public photos. The Duchess of Cambridge wore a scarlet dress to the state banquet honoring Xi, with the Chinese press cooing over her choice of “Chinese red.” Cameron declared the trip evidence of a “golden era of ties” between the countries. It was a stunning turnaround for a relationship that had sunk into a diplomatic freeze just a few years earlier when Cameron met with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.
The warmth didn’t last. Fast-forward to 2020, and things are in another downswing, with potentially even greater ramifications for the U.K. as it nears the Dec. 31 exit from the European Union’s trading rules. The departure from the bloc requires the country to negotiate its own accords, including with China, its third-biggest trading partner. The omens are not good.
China is asserting itself with multiple countries at the same time as it tries on the role of emboldened superpower to that of the second-biggest economy in the world. Australia and Canada have seen firsthand what happens when Beijing is publicly criticized or feels slighted. “China reacts directly to the vulnerability of the country involved, and in this case the U.K. has made itself very vulnerable by withdrawing from the European community and going it alone and not having trade deals lined up with either China or the United States,” says Jeff Moon, a former assistant U.S. trade representative for China affairs. “China is going to maximize that.”
As Xi tightens his grip at home—with the leeway potentially to rule for life—his army of “wolf warrior” diplomats is becoming more aggressive in defending his policies and actions elsewhere. “What you see is a kind of a creep in how expansive its coercive diplomacy has become,” says Susan Shirk, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state and author of China: Fragile Superpower. “It’s not really about foreign policy. China is trying to pressure other countries to adhere to the Chinese Communist Party’s political line.”
In that environment, the U.K. finds itself taking a leading stance against China over Hong Kong, a former British colony. A treaty agreed ahead of the 1997 return of the city to Chinese rule stipulated a “high degree of autonomy” for Hong Kong. For decades the treaty seemed largely intact. But recent years have seen an erosion by Beijing of that autonomy, especially with the imposition on the city of a sweeping national security law in June after more than a year of unrest by pro-democracy protesters. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Europe Can’t Fight anti-Semitism While Ignoring Threats to Israel
Politico, Dec. 14, 2020
Dear European Union, we have to talk about a major foreign policy blind spot: your relations with Israel.
Countless times, I have heard European leaders, on commemorative anniversaries and at memorial sites, express their anguish over the Holocaust, the extermination of 6 million European Jews and the fertile European soil that nurtured anti-Semitism over centuries. I have heard them vow repeatedly, “never again.”
I don’t for a moment minimize these statements and gestures. To the contrary, they are extremely important, all the more so as anti-Semitism is again on the rise in Europe and knowledge of the Holocaust declines. But — and it’s a big but — too many European leaders are not connecting this painful past to present policies.
I was particularly struck by this when I was invited, in 2013, to be one of six keynote speakers at a ceremony at Mauthausen, the infamous Nazi concentration camp in Austria, where my cousin, Mila Racine, was killed in the last weeks of the war.
The four speakers who preceded me — the presidents of Austria, Hungary and Poland, and the speaker of the Russian parliament — all invoked painful images of the war and the massive loss of Jewish life. They made moving statements affirming their commitment to remembrance and their opposition to any resurgence of hatred against Jews. Yet not one mentioned the word “Israel.” Not one connected the tragedy of the Holocaust to the absence of an Israel that, had it existed, might have rescued and offered safety to countless European Jews trapped on the Continent. And not one noted that nearly half of the world’s Jews today live in Israel, which faces both military threats to its existence and endless challenges to its legitimacy.
How can any leader speak about the lessons of the Holocaust and the menace of modern-day anti-Semitism without reference to the ongoing threats against Israel and the Jewish right to self-determination? What happened that day at Mauthausen was not unusual. Indeed, it was all too routine.
Every EU member country has bilateral ties with Israel, even if some, like Greece and Spain, were decades late. And the EU itself has an extensive network of links with Israel, including trade, research and development. But when it comes to the threats confronting Israel, more often than not the EU is nowhere to be found. Sure, it might offer up the occasional rhetorical flourish here or there about “commitment” to Israel’s security, but there will be nothing concrete to back it up.
Take three revealing examples. On Iran, the EU has opted to ignore the dire warnings of Israel (and Sunni Arab nations) about Tehran’s ambitions to sow chaos in the region, believing it has a better understanding of the regime and how to contain the threat, including bone-chilling calls for the annihilation of Israel. But does it really? There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest it. While others seek to disrupt the clandestine Iranian program to develop weapons of mass destruction, the EU clings to the deeply-flawed Iran nuclear deal — known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — as a lifeline and its only real hope. …. [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
For Further Reference:
Britain’s Brexit Triumph: Editorial staff, National Review, Dec. 31, 2020 — Four and a half years after the momentous vote in June 2016, Brexit is finally and fully accomplished with a U.K.–EU trade deal that sailed through Parliament 521 to 73. It’s over.
A Stunning Ruling Against Religious Freedom: Melanie Phillips, Blog Dec. 25, 2020 — The European Union likes to pose as the avatar of tolerance, freedom and all civilised values. Now it has ripped off its own disguise to reveal something rather more ugly.
How Germany Tricked Jewish Organizations Worldwide: Eldad Beck, Israel Hayom, Jan. 5, 2021 — When the German parliament labeled the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as anti-Semitic, it garnered the praise of Jewish organizations worldwide.
Israeli Ambassador to Hungary Backs Viktor Orban’s Government: Felix Schlagwein, DW, Dec. 29, 2020 — It is one of many examples that show how strong the relationship between the government and the thriving Jewish community there.