Coming to Britain again after the Brexit was kind of interesting. At Birmingham Airport there was a sign that passport control takes 10 min for UK nationals and 25-25 min for EU residents. In the end the queue was never separated and we all needed about 15 min to clear the electronic passport check. No stamps or anything were seen. In other words, nothing has changed since the pre-Brexit time. The eagerness to "take back control" was clearly not visible in terms of border control.
Due to the pandemic we could not visit over more than two years. Therefore parcels were sent back and forth for Christmas and birthdays. Now you need a customs declaration form on the parcel, which somehow spoils the surprise as all the contents have to be listed on it. The German customs made a hash of it as we got several gift parcels where we had to pay unnecessarily extra customs duty, although the "gift" box was ticked on the form. On top of that German carrier DHL charges 6 Euros for the advance payment. So we had parcels where the extra payment was higher than the value of the contents. Sending it back is no option for a gift parcel. Fortunately, you can claim it back both from German customs and from DHL, which we did. German customs procedure is very formal and the internal costs for them were significantly higher than the custom duties paid, but we did it for the principle of the matter. I'm hoping that this will be an incentive to stop this nonsense.
Northern Ireland was always known to be the weak spot of the Brexit, because leaving the EU means there is a hard border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
If you draw that line between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, then the catholic republicans won't accept a restricted access over the border to "home". This was clear from the start, so the deal was to draw the border in the Irish Sea and have Northern Ireland remaining in the EU. This of course means that shipping goods from Great Britain to Northeren Ireland have to pass the EU border and they need all the border checks. But this is not accepted by the protestantic unionists, who were told that there would be no border. So when the agreed transition ran out and the border checks were supposed to start, the unionists threatened the border patrol staff and told them to stop checking. Trying to somehow keep to the "no border" lie, the UK just elongated the transition period without consulting the EU, who agreed the Irish Sea border with the UK in a contract. And when the EU complained the Brits told then not to sulk.
The problem is that the UK government agreed to something that was never ever going to work. Now they are trying to sneak out of this by trying to make the temporary free trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland a permanent feature, while they tell the EU to grin and bare it. This of course won't work, and one result is that violence broke out again after 23 years of peace.
So the British Government can't get out of this anymore unharmed, because any way they do a border with the EU will cause massive complaints (and more) from either of the two parties. In addition, the UK has disproven that it is a reliable partner for international agreements. Boris's way of shrugging off problems and joke himself out does not work here. On the contrary, here it rather fuels the conflict.
What is needed now is that the UK government and the EU talk seriously with the involved parties about the situation in Northern Ireland and how to get out of this mess. However, this would mean that Johnson would have to face the consequences of his Brexit lies.
Mid of January it is slowly dawning what it really means to be out of the European Union. Although there are no tariffs for goods, you still need a lot more paper and a lot more controls when shipping goods from the UK and vice versa. This leads to longer shipping times and higher costs.
The first to be hit was the Scottish fish industry, as it was not possible anymore to get the fish to the continent in time. Some fishermen now unload their catch in Denmark to circumvent this, but this will lead to the closure of a lot of places in Scotland in the long term.
A lot of people don't understand this. They think that the deal with the EU made everything like before. Also it was said by the Brexiteers that nothing really changes. Now it comes more and more clear that this all was a lie. Being out means being out, and now there are quite different rules. Nothing will be the same than before.
The EU deal was mainly about tariffs. Since the UK decided to pull out of all EU regulations and make their own, the trade is subject to international laws. That means border controls and extra checks, and in the case of the Scottish fish it means that it is going off before it reaches the destination. Needless to say that a lot of businesses will be giving up trading in this situation.
The biggest failure of the EU was always that it never was able to sell its advantages to people. The common market is a big achievement, and its success made a few countries in the world try a similar approach. The one country not realising and going in a different direction is the UK. The advantages of the common market were taken as granted. But now the harsh reality is hitting, but too late.
Christmas Eve finally brought the trade deal between the UK and the EU. Boris Johnson was celebrating this like he won an olympic medal, which was strangely inadequate. But his celebrations were not so much about the deal, which certainly will cause massive complaints (the fishermen have already started), but more because he can stay in office. A no-deal Brexit would have most certainly been the end of his time as Prime Minister
Johnson was under pressure to get a deal, as the reaction to the new Corona strain showed the no-deal future like under a magnifying glass. Lines of lorries waiting to get over to France and shortages of fresh food in Britain were exactly what was predicted for the case of a no deal. Nobody wanted to hear it or believe it, but there it was and could not be denied any longer. From a German perspective it was a bit amusing that the Lufthansa flew fresh vegetables into the UK, these "lettuce bombers" were an odd reminder of the "raisin bombers" during the Berlin blockade in 1948/49.
The deal is a compromise that nobody is entirely happy about, but better than nothing. The problem is that the British politicians, and especially Boris Johnson, can't be trusted that they keep to it. I wonder how long it takes before the UK asks for amendments. Which would put everything back to square one.
The coming months will show how the UK will deal with the Brexit situation. But the prospects are not very good. The markets will have to struggle with different legislations in the EU and the UK which makes trade more complicated - and therefore more expensive. The propaganda that the British economy will thrive on Brexit is rubbish, and I am predicting that on Christmas 2021 Boris will be gone and with him all the fake optimism that surrounds the Brexit at the moment.
Also the state of the Union is still endangered. Scotland is fighting for another referendum, with the aim of independence and getting back into the EU. Northern Ireland is already separated in parts, as it is technically still in the EU to avoid a hard border with Ireland. The Welsh are not happy that they don't get the funds anymore that they got from the EU, something that was promised to them in the Brexit campaign. That leaves the one country that really wanted to get out of the EU: England. The fact that England was bullying the UK out of the EU is not a good base for a "United" Kingdom.
At the end of January the UK finally left the European Union. The british MEPs were singing Auld Lang Syne, it was a rather emotional moment.
Today this seems to have happened in another life. The Corona Crisis has taken everything over, leaving Brexit in oblivion. But the situation has not changed, EU rules still apply, and there is still no deal about future relations with the EU in sight after the transition period is over.
The terms and conditions of the exit were always the centre point in Brexit politics. Theresa May tried to get a deal done, but that was rejected from all sides. Most Politicians knew that a no-deal-Brexit would be desatrous for the country, but in the end they acted more for their own good than for their country's. If the relationship with the EU was meaningless there would not have been four years of endless political discussions with no conclusion whatsoever. This was one of the main reasons for Boris Johnson's big victory in the last elections - people were just fed up.
Altough the circumstances have now dramatically changed, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still adamant that the UK will stick to the original timeline, which is allowing time for a deal with the EU until the end of the year. On top of that he wants to quit the negotiations with the EU in June if there is no progress in sight.
It looks like the Corona Crisis will cause a massive economical downturn all around the world. If there is no deal with the EU then the UK will finally crash out of the EU and the UK will be hit even harder than the rest of the world.
Meanwhile the hardliners in the UK are hoping that the Corona Crisis will destroy the EU. There are signs that the member states are acting more for themselves than as a member of the Union. But no country with sound reason would want to give up the advantages of the EU. It is rather unlikely that the EU falls apart, it is more likely that they stand together stronger after the crisis. Getting the economy working again is much easier done in the Union.
It is weird to see that some people really think that the UK is better off without the EU and that Britain will come out stronger of this. I have no idea what this reasoning is based on, but when it comes to self-over-estimation the Brits are world champions. Especially since they seem to rather look back instead of looking forward.
So the signs are pointing more and more to a no-deal Brexit. Boris Johnson has moved himself into a position from which he can not get out anymore without losing his face (as if that mattered anyway). Which means that he will make lots of people suffer just out of arrogance. But this was the game that the uppercrust played from the beginning. It is just incredible that so many people were believing this. On one hand the Brits always showed a high self-confidence and trust their own judgement more than others, on the other hand they follow the paroles of the upper class without questioning.
The Corona crisis will make it even easier to mess around with Brexit, because nobody is interested in it anymore. Therefore the UK might come out of this with a double hangover - mourning the victims of the badly managed Corona crisis and suffering from the economical blow of the no-deal Brexit. On top of that the Kingdom might not much longer be a United one. The future does not look bright at the moment. The divide in the population is the worst bit of it, and all this was completely unnecessary.
So the UK has voted to leave the European Union. David Cameron has completely misjudged this when he announced the referendum. And from my point of view the Brits have completely misjudged their situation within the EU. They will have to learn it the hard way when they are on their own.
What you hear a lot these days is "making Britain great again", returning back "to glory" and so on. What that means exactly was of course never said, but people fell for it. There was always some anti-European feeling in Britain, and this campaign brought out the worst of it. National pride vs bland facts is literally a no-brainer.
National pride and prejudice against anything foreign is not a good base for running a nation. Actually this is rather a breeding ground for fascism. But the good thing is that the Brits were never very receptive to fascists.
Today the world has moved on and most countries have learned that global problems are best solved together. It is the people of yesterday that think one nation does better alone.
As it looks it was the older generation with less education that went for leave, whereas the young and educated went for remain. Some of the latter are seeing it now as the older generation destroying the future of the young ones. Which is probably true.
The slogan "take control" implied that the UK has lost control. But the UK was a sovereign state, and the EU rules and regulations concern mostly the common market, the interior was controlled by the UK government. If the Brits think they can take control over the global marked they are completely wrong. To stay in the common marked they still need to adapt EU guidelines, and now they don't have a say in that anymore.
Also, if they want access to the common market Britain will still have to pay into the EU , and also they have to accept the freedom of workers migration, two things that also the reclusive nations of Switzerland an Norway had to accept.
In other words: not much will change. And the control is rather given up than taken back.
Big companies want to settle in legal certainity. The UK won't have that for the next few years. Also, if someone wants to get into the EU market they want to do it from a EU country.
Which means that companies think twice before they invest now in the UK, and rather go one island further into Ireland. The Brexit is a big slap in the face of interested companies. Some companies might even shut down their UK facilities and move into the EU.
This could lead to a further decline of the British industry, and Ireland will be the winner.
It was in actual fact England and Wales who voted for the Brexit, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain.
Nicola Sturgeon already announced that the Scots will do another referendum to separate from the UK. And this time I'm sure the result will be different. In the long term Scotland will be an independent country within the EU.
The result of the referendum made Sinn Fein already speculating about bringing Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland. This has all the potential to bring back trouble, and frankly I don't really want to think about the consequences there.
The result from the referendum is that there is a big rift in the country, which has all the potential to cause social and political trouble. And this is independent of the outcome.
But the fact that Britain leaves the safe haven of the EU will further divide the country, as an ecoomical decline is rather certain. It was a big mistake to do this referendum, and the outcome is the worst possible one. The next few generations will have to suffer for it.