Is the EU crumbling? Brexit, vaccine and trade rules chaos
- Brexit Britain has not been billed as the apocalypse some experts feared
- UK-EU post-Brexit export rules continue to hinder businesses
- Opposition parties in Germany and France use Europe’s vaccine crisis to intensify EU exit campaigns
- Europe playing a dangerous game with US President Joe Biden
Today (April 12th) marks 100 days since Britain departed the European Union and became a sovereign state.
While the implications of the Brexit vote have been far-reaching, both sides are making progress in technical negotiations on how to apply post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland to limit border disruption.
According to the Financial Times, EU Commission VP Maros Sefcovic and UK Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost could meet later this week to review developments in talks concerning Northern Ireland protocol in hopes of reaching an understanding.
Brexit Britain has also defied consensus expectations for a housing market crash, amongst other factors. UK housing prices have skyrocketed over the past few months, and apart from an early incident when French President Emmanuel Macron imposed a freight ban on the UK, there haven’t been thousands of freight queues at the border which were expected.
Britain’s departure from the EU has also allowed the country to avoid Europe’s covid vaccine crisis, which European leaders continue to struggle with confidence in jabs plummeting across the continent.
However, new export rules caused UK-EU trade to plummet at the start of 2021; Northern Ireland has become a site of violence and protest, fishing communities are on the brink of collapse and goods ordered online from the EU have become more expensive.
Hundreds of small businesses now face new administration costs and huge levies for moving goods across the Channel.
Small businesses struggling with new trade rules
Brexit Britain has forced UK exporters to navigate a labyrinth of new administrative work to deliver goods and services to the EU.
However, many suffer mounting problems as exporting has not only become prohibitively expensive, but new rules of origin forms, customs declaration requirements and VAT obligations are incredibly complex.
Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “Many small enterprises have already thrown in the towel where exports are concerned due to the demands of new regulations.”
Several small firms, including Frogbike, which manufactures 400 kids bicycles a day, have been forced to suspend their delivery service to several European countries due to each government’s administration fees.
Frogbike CEO Jerry Lawson, who exports to more than 40 countries across the globe, said, “new administrative costs have negatively affected our business and our customers, many of which are small, independent stores without massive financial operations. Ultimately, the easiest course of action for them is to not purchase products from the UK.”
The European Union is Britain’s largest trading partner, and the impact of Brexit has become a burden for many UK companies – evident in the collapse in trade witnessed during January.
According to official statistics, UK exports to the EU plunged by 41% in January, while exports to non-EU nations rose by a mere 2%.
Imports from the EU also slipped, and while part of the decline could be partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, price hikes for goods ordered in the UK from Europe have more than likely contributed.
Some experts have suggested that exports slipped in January as businesses stockpiled ahead of the Brexit transition period amid ongoing uncertainty over whether negotiation teams would achieve a UK-EU trade deal.
However, the Road Haulage Association offered a different perspective after they revealed that more than half of trucks that entered the UK from Europe returned empty in January.
Scottish journalist Andrew Neil has said that Brussels had it in their plans to make negotiations difficult with the EU because European leaders are “terrified” of Britain presenting a more prosperous economic alternative to the bloc’s model.
Is the EU terrified of Brexit Britain?
Former Editor of The Sunday Times, Andrew Neil, has insisted that the bloc attempted to make Brexit negotiations as challenging as possible for Britain to ensure “no alternative economic model takes off 20 miles north of Calais, in the fifth largest economy in the world”.
He went on to say that European leaders are frightened by the idea that an alternative and potentially successful economic framework could be achieved so “could be so close to mainland Europe.”
That doesn’t seem to be all that’s troubling the bloc, as European unity has been teetering on collapse as tensions among member states escalate over the coronavirus crisis.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reportedly under pressure from Germany’s main opposition party, supporting an EU exit campaign in the country’s upcoming federal election.
French President Emmanuel Macron is also on alert after a leading Frexit campaigner warned European leaders that the bloc would “pay the price” for vaccine chaos on the continent.
Europe’s vaccine crisis is fuelling “EU exit” campaigns
EU exit campaigns are gathering steam across the continent as vaccine chaos across the bloc intensifies.
Compared to the UK, which as of April 12th, has vaccinated 32,121,353 million people and is on track to vaccinating 75% of the total population by August, the EU, with 10% of its total population protected against COVID-19, is significantly behind.
Support for Brexit has also increased following European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s threats to block vaccine exports to countries that weren’t engaging in “reciprocating” behaviour.
The move, which experts criticised as a desperate attempt to hold onto spare jabs to cover the bloc’s botched vaccination programme, not only upset the UK but the US and other countries such as Australia.
However, the EU is now facing another crisis as the AstraZeneca jabs that the bloc was withholding are being wasted as blood clot reports have reduced public confidence.
Despite reassurances from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), mistrust in the vaccine is soaring. Yet, the EU remains reluctant to export the jab.
A reader of Express.co.uk said: “The EU will go down in history as having caused deaths in their own countries, the UK and the rest of the world.”
Another commented: “Out of jealousy, the EU trashed the AstraZeneca vaccine and now reaps what it sowed.”
Another stated: “They wanted it. They trashed it. They stockpiled it. They stop others from having it. Now they can’t give it away.”
The EU’s stance on vaccine exports and trade is threatening to harm its relationship with other countries, such as the US, which has already commented on the outbreaks of violence in Northern Ireland.
US President Joe Biden urged both sides to honour the Good Friday agreement and deliver a strategy to maintain peace in Northern Ireland.
Mr Biden also commented on the EU’s growing economic relationship with China and Russia and threatened sanctions over Germany’s Nord Stream 2 project with the Eastern-European nation.
Meanwhile, World War 3 warnings were sounded after China urged the EU to make an “independent” judgement on its stance with Beijing – without US interference – in a push for its flagship Belt and Road investment initiative.
With diplomatic tensions escalating, several spectators warned that Europe could become a battleground for the US and China amid growing fears that either of the world’s leading nations could make Europe a pawn in a more significant game of who owns the world.