No doubt it will go down in history as something like the “Christmas Treaty.” It seems that Britain has finally struck a deal that will enable the country to savor the sovereignty it regained with Brexit. It will begin its return to independence with a free-trade agreement with Europe. Congratulations to Elizabeth II, her doughty Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and to the British People. You did it.
We confess a certain skepticism still obtains here at the Sun. Since the 2016 referendum, we’ve issued at least 33 editorials backing Brexit. We’d have preferred a so-called no-deal exit, in which Britain left the EU without a pact and commenced trading with it on the terms of the World Trade Organization. That would, in our reckoning, have put Britain in a stronger position in trade talks with Europe.
Then again, too, the wires are reporting that the terms just struck by Mr. Johnson are enough for Nigel Farage. The leader of the Brexit Party, who ignited the movement for Britain to reclaim its independence, has said that in light of the just-announced agreement, “the war is over.” It’s not perfect, he is quoted by the Daily Mail as saying, but “it’s a very very big day and a big step forward.”
At the Spectator in London, Katy Balls is reporting that the prospects of the treaty look good for when it is put before the Commons. That, Mr. Johnson has indicated, will be December 30. Ms. Balls mentions that the pact on which Parliament would vote is 500 pages long with another thousand pages of annexes. That’s mere twitter-length compared to an American tax bill, but someone may yet discover a betrayal buried in it.
The deal does involve a compromise by Britain in respect of fishing. It will wait five years before it has control of its fisheries. The treaty makes too much of the idea of a “level playing field” in respect of taxes and regulations; we prefer a world in which countries are freer to compete via these terms. Britain will, though, be free of the European Court of Justice (which has just upheld bans on kosher slaughtering in five European countries).
No doubt we’re in for a period of one-upmanship, in which each side seeks to put the best face on things. The undeniable fact, though, is that on the big point, the EU loses its freest and, arguably, most important member, and Britain extricates itself from a treaty it never should have entered, escaping the fate of, say, France, whose president, at his own election victory celebration, wouldn’t even play the Marseillaise.
Now it will fall to Britain’s leadership to make good on its glorious gamble. We find ourselves thinking yet again of Prime Minister Thatcher’s speech in 1988 at Bruges, Belgium. That’s where she effectively launched Brexit, declaring: “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.”
In recent months, in several of his Brexit Diary columns in the Sun, Stephen Maclean, has been sounding a corollary warning, as Prime Minister Johnson has lurched leftward (even excluding his statist approach to Covid). The ironical riposte from Mr. Maclean has been: “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state from Brussels, only to see them re-imposed at Westminster.”
It all invites a certain humility, as America prepares to inaugurate a new president. Vice President Biden was among the Democrats who echoed President Obama in urging Britons off the idea of independence. Mr. Obama threatened to put Britain at the back of the queue for a trade deal. Britons nonetheless chose Brexit, which can be seen as, among ther things, a gift to America. So we wish all merry gentlepersons a merry Brexit, too.