European diary, 31.12.2020: So now Brexit is done. 1200 pages of “deal”, a few hundred pages of which Boris Johnson already held up to the camera at Christmas during his three-and-a-half-minute Christmas speech on Twitter, promising his countrymen that there was plenty of fish in it. His whimsical speech about hope, turkey, pudding, Brussels sprouts and brandy butter will go down in history. As what, this very history will still prove. Literarily, at any rate, as a parody.
It has spread good cheer on the island. The European friends on the continent, who declared the negotiations concluded on Christmas Eve, were somewhat less credible in their good mood. There is no triumph involved, at most the relief that a superfluous torment has finally reached its at least halfway bearable end. This morning, the British ambassador in Vienna was also allowed to make an attempt to create a good mood on the radio. This was much more difficult for him than for his prime minister.
The Erasmus program, which has brought hundreds of thousands of young people from the mainland and the islands closer together, has come to an end. Even Leigh Turner couldn’t turn that into brandy butter. But when asked whether the Brexit agreement and Britain’s exit from the EU would bring any advantages, he could only proudly emphasize that the trade agreement that has now been concluded would be better … than a no-deal Brexit. We would have thought of that, too.
What remains is fish. The fishing quotas of European fishermen in British waters are now to be reduced by 25% over the next few years. That won’t ruin the EU. Nor will it help British fishermen much. If they ever wake up from their stupor. For the money that the Brexit has cost – and will still cost, e.g. to carry out customs controls, for duties that should not be levied – the British fishermen could probably have been better helped. But the dream of restoring Britain to its former stature as a global leader was stronger. A dream that is admittedly torn between two claims, the idea of itself as the center of the Commonwealth representing a supranational empire, and the old colonial feeling of representing a superior culture.
But “the proof of the pudding comes with the eating”. Whether much will remain of these dreams, other than more fish from British fishermen, only time will tell. For it is the Europeans on the continent who are supposed to buy this fish.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)