No Brussels sprouts at Christmas is the smallest problem

https://www.cicero.de/aussenpolitik/corona-variante-grossbritannien-grenzen-eu-weihnachten-brexit



NEW CORONA VARIANT IN GREAT BRITAIN-No Brussels sprouts at Christmas is the smallest problem

What Brexit failed to do, a new, aggressive variant of the corona virus is doing. The connection between the British island and the continent was largely cut on Monday.

With a new aggressive variant of the coronavirus rampant  in the UK , countries like Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland have closed their borders to flights and trains. France has suspended freight traffic by truck for 48 hours. The Eurostar to Paris and Brussels - a symbol of the British’s close ties with the continent since 1994 - has been suspended for the time being. Travelers are advised not to drive to the English ports anymore - frustrated drivers who want to travel to France jam there. However, this was no longer possible on Monday. The Sun  headlined in shock: "Pariah Britain - Chaos at Heathrow Airport".

Christmas 2020 developed into a horror scenario for the British people and their government within a few hours. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had to announce a drastic U-turn in the Corona measures to the British on Saturday, as has so often happened in the past few months: Christmas cannot be celebrated in a circle of three households, on the contrary. Everyone must stay at home. This is due to a mutated corona virus, which is 70 percent more contagious than the previously known variant. 

 
 

The chaos followed quickly

"The coronavirus is out of control," Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday. The disease is on average less severe. In the United Kingdom and also in the capital London, however, the number of infections has already doubled for a week.

The reaction of the EU countries came immediately: borders closed, it was said in most EU countries that are themselves fighting the corona virus. Emergency meetings were held in Brussels and London on Monday morning. Transport Minister Grant Shapps was “surprised” by the drastic response from European countries. 

The chaos at the port of Dover followed immediately. In the days around Christmas, 10,000 trucks travel between Calais and Dover every day. Although the Kent police are trying to keep traffic in order with the "Operation Stack", thousands of trucks with European drivers jam in front of Dover. 

The Brussels sprouts bottleneck

Not only will the British not be able to visit their families, but other essential ingredients for a real British Christmas will be missing. Since the French have closed Calais to trucks from Great Britain for 48 hours, many companies will no longer send their goods to England - for fear that their drivers and trucks will get stuck on the island. 

Much fresh food is likely to run out quickly. Brussels sprouts, for example, are also grown in Great Britain, but their own needs cannot be completely met. At Christmas, the British plaster an average of four billion “Brussels Sprouts” every year. Brussels sprouts worth 10 million euros come to the United Kingdom from the Netherlands. Overall, 80 percent of the food is imported from the British. 26 percent of them come from the EU. “Brussels Sprouts” will be sorely missed on many a British Christmas menu this year.

The British are gradually feeling the consequences of Brexit

This quickly reveals the weak point of the British island's existence. Access for importing and exporting goods is via the ports. The Dover bottleneck in particular is quickly overloaded. In the past few days, before the corona pandemic paralyzed traffic towards the mainland, freight trucks were jammed from the white cliffs of Dover into the county of Kent. 

Because not only Corona, Brexit also leads to chaos. For the first time, the British are now beginning to feel the consequences of their exit from the EU in these last days of December. The negotiations in Brussels are still dragging on, the most recent deadline was on Sunday evening. For fear of food shortages, British importers have tried in the past few days to set up stocks as large as possible. 

Another dispute over fish rights

After 47 years, does the transition phase of EU membership end on December 31st without a free trade agreement between the EU and Great Britain? For the British, it would be a big blow, especially in the middle of the corona pandemic. Many British industrialists have begged their own government to agree to an extension of the transition period. Neither the borders nor the companies, let alone the consumers, are prepared for a hard Brexit. John Allen, head of the supermarket chain Tesco, fears prices will rise by five percent on many imported goods if there is no free trade agreement with the EU because tariffs will then apply.

Boris Johnson, however, is still unwilling to agree to a compromise with the EU despite his predicament. The British negotiators continue to argue with those of the EU over the redistribution of fishing rights in British territorial waters. Fishing accounts for just 0.13 percent of UK GDP, but English fishermen enthusiastically voted in favor of Brexit so that they can fish alone in their coastal waters in the future. They don't want their Brexit bonus to be taken away. 

The EU, on the other hand, has grave concerns about allowing the British complete freedom over their waters. There is also a lot at stake for French President Emmanuel Macron. French and other European fishermen have fished off the English coast for centuries. At the height of the Brexit drama, the British had threatened to protect their fishermen from angry French and Belgian fishermen by using warships of the British Navy. 

The royals don't celebrate like usual either

Despite the thunder of cannons, there is still hope that the British government will still be willing to compromise under the enormous pressure of the Covid chaos these days. The British eventually sell the majority of their fish in the EU internal market. The EU sees the fishing industry as an overall package. A transition phase of a few years is seen as a possible compromise that could defuse the ideologically inflated conflict. The negotiations with Brussels should at least end with an agreement in principle, the ratification of which could not be completed before the end of the year, but could be completed in the coming year.

 

Even the Queen no longer knows what to say about all of this. Elizabeth II's traditional Christmas address will be broadcast on December 25th but will be recorded as early as December. This year the recording had to be postponed several times. Because just before Christmas it is still not clear what Brexit and the mutated corona virus mean for their subjects. 

Even in private life, Christmas 2020 is very different for the crowned heads of Great Britain than usual. This year, the Queen is not celebrating in her private residence Sandringham House, as always, but with Prince Philip alone in the royal residence of Windsor Castle. The 94-year-old queen and her 99-year-old husband are in self-isolation there. Even for the Royals, Christmas was canceled with the family.

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© 2018 Tessa Szyszkowitz