Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: REUTERS/MOLLY DARLINGTON
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: REUTERS/MOLLY DARLINGTON

UK citizens who renewed their burgundy-coloured passports recently and found the words “European Union” had been removed from the cover may be taken aback further when they travel to the continent after January 1 and discover they can no longer breeze through the lanes reserved for EU citizens, or travel to Europe using only basic identity documents — they will need to carry their redacted passports. And they will lose the right to live, work and play permit-free across the English Channel, unless they have already been doing so for five years.

In other words, Brits will shortly find themselves enjoying no more privileges in European countries than a backpacking Canadian university student. These are the known costs of their country’s decision to leave the EU, and now, with the transition period leading up to the actual moment of Brexit set to expire on December 31, Britons face getting nothing in return.

The fact that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is willing to contemplate a scenario under which his country leaves an advantageous political and economic union with nothing to show for it — other than the sense of having stuck it to the Eurocrats in Brussels — is mind-boggling. If no deal happens by the deadline, the UK will be left having to trade with EU member countries under the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). That’s a big step back from decades of open access to the EU. It’s also considerably worse than the “Canadian solution” many Brexiteers have long talked about.

Canada has a free-trade agreement with the EU. As things now stand, the UK does not. Businesses in the UK could be liable for $73.5bn in new tariffs, according to one report. Johnson has admitted that sheep and beef producers could face tariffs of up to 100%. One study, done in 2017, found that leaving the EU without a trade deal and falling back on WTO rules would reduce future GDP in the UK by 5% over 10 years. 

Britain’s pandemic-stricken economy could use every bit of certainty right now, yet Johnson cannot even tell his country’s businesses which trade rules they will be working under as of New Year’s Day. /Toronto, October 23

The Globe And Mail 


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