Brexit UK-EU free trade arrangement could lead to more London involvement in China’s Belt and Road

_ Yuri Kofner, editor-in-chief, analytical media “Eurasian Studies”. Moscow, 8 July 2018. Published for debate.

The post-Brexit UK-EU free trade arrangement could lead to greater London influence in the global economy, but doesn’t solve the “culture issue” at home.

Generally speaking, as a Russo-German and proponent of Eurasian economic integration I am generally skeptical about Brexit because both Russia and the Europeans actually need a united European Union.

However, since Brexit is the democratic choice of the British people, there’s nothing we can do about it. And more over, this choice was obviously done for a very good reason. That being that many British citizens want to solve the problem of mass immigration which is not being solved, or at least for a long time has not been solved within the European community. Even after the controversial “Merkel-Seehofer deal”.

If Brexit would mean leaving the shared European border control obligations, yet retaining the common European market, then this would be the best possible option under the given circumstances. One should not forget that the EU as a bloc is the UK’s largest trading partner. According to a report by the House of Commons, in 2016, it accounted for 43% of UK exports of goods and services and 54% of the UK’s imports.  Retaining a UK-EU free trade agreement would mean open access to this vital region and high EU product standards will allow UK goods to be competitive in the world market.

At the same time, London could shape regulations in other sectors, such as services or capital investments, more freely.  And most importantly, getting rid of dubious EU migration obligations, such as the Dublin Regulation, could mean safer borders and less domestic crime, which has become rampant. The BBC says, citing the British police, that robbery, sexual assault, knife attacks and other violent crimes have gone up between 20% and 29% year-on-year, September 2017. According to another briefing by the House of Commons, net immigration to Britain of non-EU nationals  rose by 45% from 138 000 to 201 000 yearly between 2013 and 2015 but “only” by 2% between 2015 and 2017 to 205 000 non-EU immigrants yearly.

Also, such an arrangement would give the UK the possibility to bilaterally cut free trade deals with other trading partners, such as the United States or China. In the case of two or more FTAs overlapping, EU interests would still have to be taken into account (no one in Brussels would accept Chinese goods labeled as “Made in the UK” flooding the European market). This, however, would still be by far a less a constraint than the drawn-out tedious negotiates the EU goes through internally when deciding on this or that trade agreement with third parties.

If Brexit will lead to the UK-EU free trade area scenario, I could expect the signing of a bilateral UK-USA “mini-TTIP” and more British involvement in China’s Belt & Road Initiative. Both of them, until now, have been rejected by the EU. A more independent United Kingdom could mean a renewed global activism in its former colonial sphere of influence. Despite of this, in January 2018 Theresa May sidestepped a Chinese push for a formal endorsement of its $900bn Silk Road strategy, suggesting Britain still has concerns about China’s political objectives for the huge infrastructure project, the Guardian argues.

How Brexit might however affect immigration remains to be seen. What might be more important than curbing immigration is the British attitude towards its own culture, history and traditions which are under threat by cultural Marxism. Only recently the Daily Mail reported that “Girls have been banned from wearing skirts at 40 secondary school across England as schools opt for gender-neutral uniforms to cater for transgender pupils”. This shows that you don’t necessarily need migrants to destroy your own culture.

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