One of the key topics of the past nearly four years has been the future face of the relations between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) in the post-transition period era. Not many people expected that within the given time frame and in the reality dominated by the COVID-19 response there would be sufficient time and willingness to reach a mutually acceptable deal.
Despite these expectations, the Christmas Eve has brought to light an agreement that seems to include the compromise many people thought was impossible. What does this mean for the Brexit and the EU camp and moreover, for the future?
Both sides claim that they have reached the deal that gives them what they campaigned and hoped for. The result is a free-trade agreement allowing the UK to sign free trade deals around the world while limiting the immigration from the European Union countries.
This also brought to the fore several topics of the regulatory divergence and fisheries, which have been passionate topics on both sides of the Channel.
For the friends of Liberty, the feelings are mixed. On the one hand, there is a heartburn associated with losing a member with whom we shared the freedom of movement and no barriers in trade, finance or flow of capital.
Whatever the deal brings, the bureaucracy and freedom of us as Europeans will be lower. It is hard to find Economic or Social Liberals happy with new barriers in places where there were none before.
We can add to that the ally that the friends of Liberty in the EU have lost an important ally, which we had in the United Kingdom to balance the centralizing tendencies of other countries. European Union is now free to pursue a more centralizing trend, which is politically acceptable in most of the largest remaining European Union countries.
A principled opposition to the EU Recovery Fund was hard to hear over the politically motivated conservative opposition spearheaded by the Polish and Hungarian government, making a genuinely liberal opposition to the Plan non-existent.
So, is there any silver lining to the current situation for liberals? If we believe in the competition of the systems and a genuine regulatory competitor now springing next to the EU, maybe there is. The fact that the UK got much of what it campaigned for means that it will be judged more harshly against the successes and failures ahead of it.
The government has the capacity to show how it ca manage a more economically liberal regime that competes with the bureaucratic and economically protective model of the EU Single market.
Of course, this means that when the tide turns within the UK, it can easily descent into more illiberal tendencies dominated by the increasingly hard left within the Labor party. In that case, the liberty-oriented around the opportunities to become the merchant hub of the world could be taken over by the protectionist tendencies that could ruin all the liberal hopes we could hope from this trend.
It is, therefore, necessary for the friends of Liberty to continue to support the freedom camp within the United Kingdom to make the most of the situation that the UK found itself in.
While many of us have personally benefited from the UK membership of the EU, including the opportunities to study, work and live in the UK, it is easy to be driven by sentiment and look at this situation with negative emotions.
However, given that we are in this situation already, we must find a way to make the most of it to make the EU go in a more liberal direction.