Can last-ditch negotiations save the Brexit deal?

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: Brexit. 

I bet you thought that was settled, right? Wrong. Great Britain is still negotiating its exit from the European Union. Delegations had nine months to reach a deal on a few sticking points. That seems like a lot of time. But it wasn’t quite enough. Or it might not be enough. They still have a few weeks until the January 1st deadline.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Well, breaking up is hard to do, after all. Especially when you have to resolve tricky issues like border crossings and trade deals!

Returning to the program to help us understand what’s going on across the pond is Glen Duerr. He’s a professor at Cedarville University, and his research focuses on nationalism and secession. Welcome back, professor!

GLEN DUERR: Thank you for having me.

REICHARD: The United Kingdom and the European Union did have a lot of issues to work out here. And my understanding is they’ve solved all but two points of disagreement: fair-competition rules and fishing rights. What are the hangups there?

DUERR: Yeah, to go to the first one, in terms of just a level playing field, a comprehensive solution for everyone, it does pertain to fair environmental, labor, and social issues across both the UK and the EU. The EU is worried that if the UK gets out, which it has with Brexit, that it can gain an advantage by not living up to environmental, labor, or social standards and therefore have an unfavorable advantage with the EU. So, that’s one that both sides are really trying to make an improvement upon.

So, fishing is the second big issue. And while it might not seem like a lot because it pertains to 0.1 percent of the economy and 0.1 percent of the jobs in the United Kingdom, some of the most fervent leavers in the Brexit referendum vote of June of 2016 were from smaller fishing communities. And they’ve already called out Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whom they backed very heavily in the December 2019 general election, and basically said we’re being left again to suffer at the hands of Europe. And so that one has proven to be a very, very sticky issues because a number of EU countries—Spain notably, but Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France—all have major constituencies with fishing as well. And neither side really wants to give up a whole lot. So it’s become the second stumbling block.

REICHARD: And if they can’t reach a compromise on these two issues, the U.K. is faced with the dreaded “no-deal Brexit.” What does that mean, practically speaking? And do you think it would really be as some analysts fear?

DUERR: I don’t. I think ultimately what will happen—and this is legally the course—is it will revert back to World Trade Organization rules that under the GATT, which was the predecessor of the WTO going back to the 1940s, it has really stabilized tariffs and non-tariff barriers across different trading countries. And so there will likely be tariffs involved, but on all non-agriculture goods it’s as low as 2.8 percent. So not a massive change. But it could have a big impact on some industries. The automotive industry, for example, can go up to 10 percent. The dairy industry even over 35 percent. So, in certain areas we could certainly see massive price changes. Of course, the EU could also play hardball as well, especially when it comes to traveling. It’s probably loathe to do so because there are so many British ex-patriots in Spain and Portugal that live and spend a massive amount of their money in the local economy. So, I think there’s a good likelihood that the EU will go back to its tried and true system of compromise. The whole thing is built on compromise and it looks like this one will go that way. But it still could be a no-deal Brexit. And that would still constitute a set of challenges.

REICHARD: I’ve read reports of long lines of trucks—lorries, the Brits call them—in Dover in England and Calais in France, the port cities. What’s going on there?

DUERR: Yeah, I grew up about 45 minutes from Dover and Folkestone, which are the nearest arteries to the European Union, especially Calais and Boulogne—and there have been long issues with agricultural goods. So, think meat, think eggs, cheese, dairy, etcetera across the board there. And so there have been some stoppages and some long waits just because some elements need to be checked. A lot is still moving through pretty freely, but there will be some localized interruptions going forward.

REICHARD: By the time Joe Biden takes office, the Brexit drama will be over, one way or another! What effect do you think these two events- Biden and Brexit- might have on U.S. relations with the U.K. and the rest of Europe?

DUERR: Yeah, it’s going to be fascinating because the UK is the United States’ eighth largest trading partner. So, not as big as China or Canada, but still a major importer, exporter, and trading partner. But given that UK will be out of the European Union, they now have the latitude to sign bilateral trade agreements with other countries and there’s one, for example, that’s moving very quickly with New Zealand. And the United States could follow up on that. So, while it was Trump and Johnson—and even though they had some challenges in the relationship—it looked like things were moving forward very quickly. A Biden administration is a little different. It could play hardball in more ways than would be expected under President Trump. And certainly when President Obama was in office, he was very, very careful to draw too many comparisons with joint history with the United Kingdom, arguing that the United States has changed and it is now, you know, looks very, very different. And so there could certainly be some hiccups with a different administration.

REICHARD: Glen Duerr is a political science professor at Cedarville University, a Christian college in Cedarville, Ohio. Thanks so much for joining us today!

DUERR: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali) The Union Flag waves on the top of 10 Downing Street, in London, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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