Great Britain leads the way in Europe. A title London has been fighting for – albeit under the leadership of many different heads of government – for years. It was achieved in early 2021.
It comes down to vaccination. The British government has invested a lot of money, took a pragmatic approach and recently reported that about ten percent of the population had already received the first dose of the Coronavirus vaccine. Much more than in the rest of Europe, where EU member states are still stuck in the low one-digit percentage range. A success for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, too, because that number was only possible with one thing: the separation from the European Union, which is following its vaccination strategy and is now receiving a lot of ridicule and criticism. Britain’s exit from the European Union celebrates its first anniversary today. Is everything all right on the island now?
The initial euphoria is gone
Up front: appearances are deceiving, and there’s not much initial euphoria left. The trade pact that the European Union and its former member used for four weeks shows the first effects on trade. The border with Great Britain became a real obstacle here. Freight forwarders complain about customs duties, excessive bureaucratic barriers, and the main concern is having to return to Europe with empty cargo compartments because merchants are ashamed of the newly introduced border controls.
Happy fish – unhappy fishermen
This was also felt by fishermen who were initially fighting for Brexit. A higher share of fishing in their waters would also lead to higher incomes, which is the assumption. Export actions were not part of this account. Today, it is not uncommon for fishermen to be left on their toes and feeling constrained by EU food safety requirements and tariff declarations. “What matters is that we took our fish back. It is now a British fish. It is therefore better and happier than fish,” said Jacob Reese Mugg, a member of the British House of Commons for the Conservative Party.
The tense situation in Northern Ireland
However, prominent politicians from Northern Ireland are less happy. The British boycott, which will remain part of the European Customs Union after the agreements in the trade agreement, has recently had to complain about partially empty supermarket shelves due to trade difficulties. An advertisement from Brussels makes things more difficult. As exports of vaccines will be subject to approval in the future, border controls between EU member Ireland and British Northern Ireland could become a reality. Avoiding this has been a major goal of Brexit negotiators for years. It is feared that border controls at the inner Irish border could endanger the peace process in the Northern Ireland conflict. Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister Arlene Foster already considers the Brexit regulations to be “unfeasible”.
The majority of Scots to return to the European Union – if needed alone
But another part of the UK is also worrying Prime Minister Johnson. In Scotland, the national party of the same name, SNP, is fighting for a return to the European Union. Regional elections are set to take place in Scotland as early as May – if the Scottish National Party succeeds in gaining an absolute majority there, it is very likely that there will be one scenario: a second referendum on secession from the United Kingdom. In September 2014, the majority of Scots voted against independence. Polls at least indicate that this vote will be different today.
But this poll is not only in favor of the European Union. According to another survey, today, a year after Brexit, the majority of Britons believe leaving the European Union was a mistake. It remains to be seen whether the successful launch of the British vaccination strategy can do anything to address the trend. Just like the long-term consequences of Brexit, which began in 2016 – also with the population vote.