Boris Johnson has kept his word, and the United Kingdom will finally leave the European Union at the end of January. In little more than six months as Prime Minister, Johnson has succeeded where Theresa May failed: strengthening the conservatives in a national election and carrying the UK out of the EU without further ado. Those who thought that this would close the last chapter of the Brexit saga, however, should reconsider their guess. With the beginning of the transition period, new pages still have to be written.
“We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow”. (Lord Palmerston).
Boris Johnson called an election in December 2019. At the time government, parliament, and UK politics in general was log-jammed by the Brexit issue. Unable to move forward towards Brexit or back towards another referendum on remaining in the EU, Johnson cast the election in terms of pitching “the people” against parliament, causing some to see this as a populist election. Parliament was portrayed as divided, divisive and as an institution blocking Brexit.
The vote to leave the European Union marked a turning point in British politics. But it was also a potentially important moment for the UK’s role in global politics. For some of its supporters, at least, Brexit was in part about unleashing the potential of ‘Global Britain,’ allowing the country to trade and collaborate with countries across the world in a way it either could not or had not when in the European Union.
The victory of Boris Johnson in the UK general election could be considered a national endorsement for Brexit, but should not be judged as a breakthrough in reconciliating the factions that are splitting the kingdom. For at least two reasons. First of all, the result of the election confirms that the voters for and against Brexit are more or less the same as they were in 2016, when the referendum took place. Three years of excruciating debate has not shifted opinions in any clear direction.
Boris Johnson has kept his word. The United Kingdom has left the European Union on Friday. However, Brexit is far from over. London and Brussels now need to negotiate the terms of their future relationship in just 11 months (during the 'transition period'). So a new Brexit cliff edge may be just around the corner, with a hard Brexit still an option.
The British played a crucial role in the European Union as advocates for market liberalization and efficient regulation, transparent and accountable bureaucracy, and widening market access. Their fingerprints can be found on the completion of the internal market, the reform of the European Commission, the expansion to Central and Eastern Europe, and the continuing focus on the western Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean.
There is little doubt that 2019 was a lost year for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU integration. Although in the last months some major events did occur both at the macro-regional and state-wide levels, only low expectations of progress can be foreseen in the immediate future.
“We have to deliver and keep our promises”, the new President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen made clear in talking to Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic at the launch of his country’s first presidency of the Council of the European Union. Her reference is to the summit in Thessaloniki of 2003, when the EU committed to enlargement to the Balkan region. In the meanwhile, much has changed, even the name of the region. Since 2013, when Croatia entered the Union, the Balkans became “Western”.
The EU-ACP Partnership Agreement, signed in Cotonou in 2000, is due to expire on 29 February 2020. Since the negotiations have ground to a halt, the parties have almost agreed to transitional measures to extend the application of the current agreement. Just before passing the torch to his successor, as the new European Commission took office December 1st, commissioner Neven Mimica briefed member states' representatives on the negotiations and its current standstill. Which appears to be very much inherent to the format itself.