When Boris Johnson stood at the Greenwich Maritime Observatory, less than 72 hours after the formal Brexit on January 31, he was unequivocal.
He said the United Kingdom had “concluded a three-and-a-half-year debate” and “resolved” the longstanding issue of sovereign power. In a crowd of a nation sighing, he joked that he would “only mention the name of the controversy by saying that it begins with the letter B.”
But Brexit has never disappeared. It was not settled at the point of our official exit from the European Union, nor for the approximately 11 months devoted to sorting out a deal with terms of trade, security and other elements of cooperation.
The sense of crisis returned with the passage of the year.
In one session of the prime minister’s questions at the start of December alone, Johnson referred to Brexit eight times, despite a previous pledge that had vanished.
But does it have to be like this?
There have only been two important moments this year when it comes to the critical issue at the heart of the conflict, and both were at the beginning.
The first was on January 8th, when the new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen came to the London School of Economics in London to announce that the EU was ready to do a “zero-tariff, zero-share” deal but only if we also signed a “zero dumping” deal.
This was the term for allowing access without definitions after subscribing to a form of equal opportunity: somehow adhering to EU rules in areas such as state aid, the environment, and workers’ rights.
After nearly a month in Greenwich, Johnson determined how far he would go to fulfill the European Union’s request.
He explained that it is never likely that Britain will support its companies more than the European Union companies, or lower environmental standards than those provided by the European Union, or reduce the rights granted to workers, some of which are already above the mandatory minimum standards imposed by Brussels, but “without coercion.” From a treaty. “
In other words, the entire debate has always been about the standards the EU wants to keep in legal form, which the prime minister claims that we never intend to walk away from, but he does not want to commit to a future legal agreement or European court.
I have spent the last 11 months trying to settle this cycle.
David Frost, chief negotiator in the United Kingdom, and Michel Barnier, his counterpart in the European Union, spent 10 months leaving other aspects of the deal – covering data protection, transportation, financial services, security, energy and the like – in place, all the time knowing that This big highlight piece can drop everything.
Now, it seems as if Lord Frost may have succeeded.
In the end, it is framed as a debate about who has more power and taking back control.
But in the final hours, we seemed ready to discover soon enough that both positions could be square all the time.