Boris Johnson has been elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. But, Tom Walkom writes, nothing has changed:
It seems the real debate over Brexit has just begun. In fact, the plan negotiated in October between Johnson and the EU does not call for a complete divorce by Jan. 31.
Rather it calls for the two sides to enter a so-called period of transition for up to three years while a more permanent arrangement is hammered out.
During the transition period, the United Kingdom would continue to pay into the EU budget and would continue to be bound by EU rules. It would not, however, have a say in how this budget is spent or how those rules are set.
Workers and others would be allowed to move freely between the U.K. and the EU during the transition period.
The October plan also includes a scheme to deal with the fraught question of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
In effect, it means that for most trade purposes, Northern Ireland would be treated as part of the EU — at least for a while. By 2024 at the earliest, Northern Ireland’s assembly would have the right to challenge this arrangement.
So the dance continues. And getting Brexit done will take a long time:
A relatively simple agreement between Canada and the EU took seven years to negotiate and sign. Even now, three years after it was signed, that Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement is not fully in force, thanks in large part to the EU’s complicated system of ratification. It’s unlikely Johnson could do any better.
And, as the dance continues, Scotland once again contemplates separation:
The pro-independence Scottish National Party took 47 of Scotland’s 59 seats — in large part because so many Scots oppose Brexit.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says this gives Scotland’s parliament the moral and constitutional authority to stage another referendum on independence, regardless of what Johnson says.
Under British law, such referendums require the approval of the national government. Johnson has said he won’t grant it. A showdown is in the making.
In short, Johnson’s sweeping victory has solved little. The U.K. remains tethered to the EU while the two sides negotiate. Britain’s future in Europe remains unclear. And a new crisis over Scotland looms.
Nothing has been solved. Nothing has been gained.