Finally, the Brexit crisis, which sparked heated debates over two-and-a-half years, is all set to be solved, as the Conservatives won an overwhelming majority in Parliament after the December elections. Until then, the crisis only managed to push Britain into a circle of uncertainty and which affected the entire economy.
Now everything is clear. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will keep his promise of taking Britain out of the EU by January 31. But the move will result in complicated outcomes, whether it be the nature of the exit process set by Brussels and within the UK itself. After the election results, the Scottish National Party demanded the UK government should hold another independence referendum for Scotland.
On the other hand, Northern Ireland, the fourth component of the United Kingdom, is demanding answers to the damages it will have to bear as a result of Brexit. It is because a large part of Britain’s trade with the EU passes through the southern and northern Irish borders, which would cause them to lose $4 billion annually from fees, services, multiple logistics and commercial activities.
The UK’s economic and trade relations will be restructured drastically, and it is this aspect that will matter to other countries, especially the Gulf states which share with London historical and commercial ties and investment interests.
The US, one of Britain’s important trading partners, will seek a free trade agreement with Britain, something that was restated by President Trump after the election results became clear. If this is done, both sides will enjoy mutual benefits and result in increased trade exchange. This will compensate the UK for some of the facilities it enjoyed by virtue of its EU membership.
Rewrite the past
Brussels and London are well aware of the importance of maintaining economic and trade relations. This was made clear by Queen Elizabeth and Chancellor Angela Merkel in two separate statements, although they know very well, that their relations will not remain as they were. Britain’s entry into new free trade agreements with other parties would change many past equations.
Other countries and economic blocs should seize this unprecedented opportunity. The GCC states must do their best to sign a free trade agreement with the UK, which was not made possible in spite of strenuous efforts made to sign a GCC-EU agreement over the past 30 years. This was due to Germany and France bringing up political issues far removed from the substance of the trade agreement.
Although the GCC is not at its best now, signing an agreement with the UK will serve all Gulf members whose exports of petrochemicals and aluminium suffer from high and unfair customs duties in the EU. This potential free trade agreement will open up marketing capabilities to the most important exports from the GCC.
Yet, in spite of the GCC’s internal issues, the new secretary-general can be authorized to draft and sign an agreement in coordination with GCC ministers of economy. It will benefit both sides.
This opportunity, made available thanks to the UK’s need for new commercial partners to compensate for the lost EU privileges, may not be available after Britain re-arranges its commercial ties with other countries and economic blocs.
The timing also will be of importance. It is true the Brexit flight - No. 2020 - will have a final take off from Brussels to London on January 31. But it will face some serious air bumps on the way home.