With the conclusion of the Brexit withdrawal agreement earlier this year, the United Kingdom has entered a transition period. However, the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, anti-globalisation movement and booming populism catalyse changes in international relations, especially the complicated history of Northern Ireland “Troubles”, generally referring to the roughly 30-year period of violence and political upheaval in Ireland that spanned from the late 1960s to the late 1990s, remains an implicit problem. Such a situation has made all parties concerned to doubt whether the negotiation in the transition period could be concluded by the end of 2020 as scheduled, although it is much hoped that the UK and EU together are able to make it.
Brexit, a major setback for the European Union process, exerts an impact on the EU and the European continent both in the current and over the long run.
At present, the EU is striving to adapt to a new round of global changes against the backdrop of Brexit and pandemic outbreak on the one hand and proposing more realistic new growth ideas to increase the union cohesion on the other.
Second, the UK’s desire for growth is mainly accountable for the Brexit process. Since joining the European community in the 1970s, the UK, with a different legal system, governance concept, industry and economic structure in comparison with other major European countries, has often complained about budgets and other issues. Also, the evolution of the international environment, the rise of emerging economies and the impact of immigration issues have highlighted the domestic political drive of Brexit.
Third, Brexit negotiations during the transition period show that the international relations and governance can be adversely affected against the backdrop of post-Cold War globalisation, changes in technology, trade and investment, digital and technological gaps, a widening wealth gap and tremendous changes in world economy. In an international governance environment, however, where human society is still mainly based on the sovereign state systems, slogans and lone views alone are far from being enough for tackling urgent or near challenges in international and regional cooperation. Practical measures are indispensable, and the ability to respond in unity to crises and solve problems should be strengthened. Fourth, the general trend of global and regional cooperation will not change.
The EU, and the UK to some extent, has been synchronising with each other by Brexiting and engaging at the same time. Some specific negotiations on the implementation of the withdrawal agreement are examples. Also, Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have always been committed to maintaining traditional connections and cooperation. Brexit is a rare example of a major adjustment in globalisation. The new relationship between the UK and EU as well as the UK and the Republic of Ireland will inevitably bring both opportunities and challenges to Sino-EU, Sino-UK relations when it comes to cooperation in the fields of economic growth.
Because of the uncertainty of Brexit and relevant rules, Chinese enterprises and the business community have actively adjusted themselves to the new “situation” and it is truly hoped that all parties in Europe can continue to resolve the issue among themselves through dialogue and consultation, maintain regional peace and stability and continue to strengthen communication and pragmatic cooperation with emerging economies.
China and Europe have enjoyed along partnership in investment and trade and the bilateral relations have generally developed well despite Brexit and pandemic outbreak.
According to China Customs statistics, the EU maintained the position of China’s largest trading partner in 2019, with trade volume reaching 4.86 trillion yuan ($687 billion), an increase of 8 percent.
The leaders of the two sides have both emphasised the significance of strengthening solidarity, safeguarding multilateralism, supporting the leading role of the World Health Organization in the global multilateral anti-pandemic efforts and jointly responding to the pandemic challenge.
The cumulative yuan clearing volume of London exceeded 40 trillion yuan, making the metropolis the second-largest offshore yuan clearing centre and the largest yuan offshore foreign exchange trading centre in the world.
The author is the former Chinese ambassador to Ireland and a senior researcher at and director of the global study centre of the National Academy of Development, Renmin University of China. CHINA DAILY
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