Boris Johnson claimed that Brexit was finally “done” just under a year ago, when the trade deal was agreed that replaced the transition arrangements on 1 January this year. The Department for Exiting the European Union was wound up and ministers were instructed to stop using the B-word.
As the year ends, however, Brexit has failed to retire quietly to the history books. Within months of the new trading relationship with the EU coming into effect, the UK government said it wanted to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement containing the special rules applying to Northern Ireland – because they were not working as British negotiators had expected.
David Frost, the prime minister’s chief Brexit negotiator, was elevated to the cabinet via the House of Lords, and began a new round of never-ending talks, punctuated by weekly public statements of the kind that have been issued for five years now, about how progress had been made but that the two sides remain “far apart”.
Meanwhile, relations between the UK and the EU, and particularly between the UK and France, have been characterised all year by diplomatic hostilities. At the start of the year the EU resented the UK’s speed in approving and delivering coronavirus vaccines, with Emmanuel Macron, president of France, publicly questioning the efficacy of the British-partnered Astra-Zeneca vaccine.
Anglo-French relations worsened over a dispute about post-Brexit fishing rights in Jersey waters, and then degenerated further as both sides appeared to blame the other for the death of 27 people trying to cross the Channel in November. The increase in dangerous small boat traffic from France to the UK was not caused by Brexit, although Britain’s departure from the EU has complicated attempts to solve it. The EU’s attempt to agree a common approach to asylum, known as the Dublin III Regulation, had not worked well, but now there was no mechanism for EU-level cooperation at all.
So far, the Anglo-French disputes over fishing rights and unauthorised Channel crossings have not affected the talks on the Northern Ireland protocol – indeed both sides in those negotiations have sounded more hopeful in recent weeks. But there seems plenty of scope for any of these disputes to flare up. One year on, Brexit is anything but “done”.
If you have a question about Brexit, the Northern Ireland protocol or the state of Anglo-French relations, submit it now, or when I join you live at 1pm on Tuesday 7 December for an “Ask Me Anything” event.
To get involved all you have to do is register to submit your question in the comments below.
If you’re not already a member, click “sign up” in the comments box to leave your question. Don’t worry if you can’t see your question – they may be hidden until I join the conversation to answer them. Then join us live on this page at 1pm as I tackle as many questions as I can.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies