Brexit: “Out of the House, But Keep The Keys”

This is how the final UK – EU deal was characterized by Alexander Mercouris in a live stream with Alex Christoforou at The Duran.

Main points to take away:

  • The UK stays in the free trade (zero tariff) zone with the EU, but in so doing remains strongly bound by EU regulations (with the latter having 6x its GDP, I would add, it could hardly be otherwise).
  • The UK also didn’t regain judicial sovereignty, remaining bound to the ECHR.
  • Some bureaucratic changes that will be a minor inconvenience to some British: Need a visa to stay longer than 90 days; end of participation in Erasmus program… most of it along these lines.
  • The UK obviously loses any say over internal EU matters.
  • “Out of the house, but keep the keys” – almost all existing agreements stay on in their current form – indeed, amusingly, one section appears copied direct from an old 1990s document that describes Netscape Communicator 4.0 as a “modern e-mail software package” –  so rejoining the EU will be a bureaucratic formality that will need very little legislative change nor a referendum (unlike the initial accession in the 1970s).
  • … And as such, may well happen under a future PM like Keir Starmer.

And how it works out for different groups:

  • So0ner a win for Boris Johnson, who managed to avoid the fallout from a hard Brexit while leaving room for Britain to drift farther away from the EU over the next few years.
  • Big win for Angela Merkel and German business interests, who can continue racking up a large trade surplus with the UK. (I was amused to learn from Mercouris that she privately refers to Britain as “treasure island”).
  • Big loss for Macron, who was pushing for a hard Brexit as part of his drive to secure strategic autonomy for the EU, with France in the cockpit.
  • Sooner a win for anti-EU leaning populists in the EU (e.g. Le Pen, Salvini, Vox) since a disruptive hard Brexit could have discredited subsequent attempts to leave Europe.
  • Setback for Scottish independence – Mercouris believes there’s a less than 50% chance it will happen. With there still being an easy road to EU re-accession, the Scots may find it easier to do so from London than starting from zero themselves.
  • Avoids reignition of the Irish troubles thanks to preservation of free trade at the Ireland/Northern Ireland border.

So on the one hand, Brexit is apparently done. But can it ever be truly done?

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

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  2. What the EU didn’t want was a giant Hong Kong off its coast free of the stifling regulatory regime Brussels imposes on its own companies. Did it get it or will the UK wriggle out of Euro regulatory control as it adjusts to its new status? Too soon to tell

  3. Europe Europa says

    I don’t think they did get that. Apparently financial services are not part of the deal so UK banks and financial companies now have to follow the rules of every different EU country they operate in, whereas before they only had to comply with UK rules because of free movement of goods and services across the EU, so it sounds like a bit of a disaster for the financial industry.

  4. That Would Be Telling says

    Only really following Brexit about fishing, and per the first link I found (sorry it’s The Guardian):

    In the Christmas Eve deal the UK government and Brussels agreed that 25% of EU boats’ fishing rights in UK waters will be transferred to this country’s fishing fleet over a period of five-and-a-half years. The UK had originally demanded that the EU’s rights be cut by 80%. The UK did, however, reduce the number of years over which the change will be introduced to well under half of what the EU originally demanded.

    Sounds better than nothing, but not much of a victory. As Mr. Karlin points out, not a hard Brexit, has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

  5. Europe Europa says

    I really don’t understand the fishing thing, surely if they’re your territorial waters then you have the right to restrict who enters and operates in them, just like your own land?

    This idea many seem to have, not least the French, that Britain has some moral obligation to allow French and other foreign boats to fish in British waters at will is just bizarre to me. What next, they have a right to do as they please with British land as well, just because?

    I seem to recall that Britain had conflict with Iceland before over fisheries, and most people seemed to believe that the Icelanders had the right to have sole access to their own territorial waters and keep foreign boats out. Yet we British do not have the same right to our own territorial waters?

    Maybe I’m missing something, but it all just seems so bizarre and illogical to me.

  6. Anatomy Karlin is OK says

    Brexit isn’t a good idea. The Tories will undoubtedly open up the floodgates to the third world

  7. Good summary. But no way UK rejoins within 15 years. Everybody is tired of arguing about the EU. It’s like we’ve been playing HoI4 with a 5 year national focus of nothing but Brexit. Starker has wisely ruled out fighting the next election on a rejoin platform

  8. Britain needs millions of randy Nigerians, Arabs, and Pakis to help bump up the birth rate and outpopulate Russia.

  9. France is the principle destination for the UK’s fish exports. If they didn’t get fishing access they could hit the UK with tariff s.

  10. Kent Nationalist says

    end of participation in Erasmus program

    Erasmus is a thinly disguised breeding program intended to create a single, homogenous, mongrelised European race

  11. Maybe the 2014 sanctions saved Saint Petersburg from a London or Vancouver like overinflated housing market due to wealthy Chinese buyers, a decade ago, after having visited Saint Petersburg, I had the idea that maybe it would be a good idea for Saint Petersburg to try to sell itself to wealthy Chinese buyers, like how London is attractive to foreign real estate investors due to its history and its status as a global financial center, by making its cultural capital as a selling point, fortunately the Crimean crisis happened and that did not take place, so that housing market stayed very affordable, unlike Vancouver, Sydney, or Auckland after the 1980s. Back in 2010, Russia was still a rich country compared to China.

  12. rejoining the EU will be a bureaucratic formality that will need very little legislative change nor a referendum (unlike the initial accession in the 1970s)

    We didn’t have a referendum on originally joining the Common Market, as it was then called.

  13. AlexanderGrozny says

    Native Brits have a pretty decent fertility rate by European standards, and with the nationalism around Brexit I can see it exceeding 2.2 by 2030, with the native British population perhaps reaching 75 million even without migration by 2050.

  14. oliver elkington says

    That already happened under EU membership, a huge number of UK immigrants from Africa and Asia were actually living in Europe before migrating to Britain, i know as i have spoken to a lot of migrants in London and they told me they were living in Italy etc before moving to England(and it is nearly always England) With a EU passport migrants could easily migrate from Europe to the UK and many of those “Italians” and “Portuguese” were actually Indian or Nigerian.

  15. UK had a fertility rate of 1.65 in 2019. Only counting women born in UK the number was 1.57. UK did have around 1.9 fertility rate about a decade ago but it has decreased every year since 2013.

    Fertility rate reaching 2.2 again? It’s not impossible but the fertility rate decline that’s happening right now is happening almost everywhere. It will be interesting to see which developed nation is first to break out of it.

  16. There’s something else that the summary got wrong: It left out the new Irish Sea border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

    It was stupid of the DUP leadership to support Brexit.

  17. Setback for Scottish independence

    ‘Independence in Europe’ was the SNP’s policy, but it was predicated on two things:
    (1) A breakaway Scotland being allowed to stay in the EU under favorable terms (hardly a matter of course, because it would encourage separatist movements in existing members such as Spain).

    (2) England remaining in the EU.

    If Scotland was to leave the UK now, there would be an economically non-trivial border between Scotland and England, which the whole point of ‘Independence in Europe’ was to avoid. There was a pre Brexit Scottish independence referendum which the SNP lost while it had the aforementioned possibility of a no border Britain. Since then the least of the troubles of the SNP’s independence project is that Alex Salmond has been tried for attempted rape and the party is in disarray. A relatively high percentage of worker in Scotland are not in the private sector, so it lacks the complexity / robustness and economy to cope with shocks by itself, the current pandemic has seen the health services overstretched. Scotland’s oil is high cost.

    Avoids reignition of the Irish troubles thanks to preservation of free trade at the Ireland/Northern Ireland border.

    I think that the UK being made subservient to the EU and Biden threatening Britain over the trade deal consequences of objecting to partial detachment of Northern Ireland from the UK’s ordering (violating the spirit of the peace agreement with NI Unionists), is the begining of the end of the UK’s crucial relationships being with continental Europe (EU) and the US. Enoch Powell who left the Tories to become a Ulster Unionist MP always saw willingness to uphold Northern Ireland’s status as an integral part of the United Kingdom as a crucial test. While it is true that as Mearsheimer says, a good nation state has to know its limitations, they react in predictable ways to encroachment on their territory. Brendan Simms predicts the victory over the UK in relation to the status Northern Ireland will be a pyrrhic one and spark a process of long term schismogenesis.

    The UK stays in the free trade (zero tariff) zone with the EU, but in so doing remains strongly bound by EU regulations (with the latter having 6x its GDP, I would add, it could hardly be otherwise).

    It is as a country with a trade deal with the EU that Britain is most attractive to China. Johnson is looking to make Britain a world trading power and to do that the ultimate prize is a close relationship with China. In January gave Huawei restricted access to the UKs next-generation networks, then did a U turn under pressure from America. The statements of Johnson about Singapore on the Thames and loving China (in a call with Xi after the pandemic started) show pretty clearly that “Boris” is thinking of a dynamic Far East centered UK . He is really a City of London banker’s standpoint man, and they are already fully committed to Chinese growth.

    It may sound funny that those people think they can be major players because their expertise is valuable to China, but short term the City is going to be paid off and China can use Britain for things like managing Chinese billionaires private wealth (family offices are the one thing London leads the world in) and property speculation. The UK economy is has long run on a pumped housing market, Russian capital flight, and Saudi money, so the effect of business with Chinese is not going to be any kind of novelty. Being English speaking is an inestimable advantage. The Germans may be selling stuff to Britain and capital goods to Chinese factories selling to British consumers who cannot afford German-manufactured stuff, but Britain is going for invisible exports.

  18. My SIMPLE Pseudonymic Handle says

    As opposed to the homogeneous mongrelized European race currently inhabiting those lands.

    Just adding a little coffee to the creme boys. Nothing to worry about.

  19. nokangaroos says

    Clearly the City valued being free of Brussels´rules more highly than doing business with Europe, so what else would they have in mind?

  20. Dumb question, but I don’t know the answer.
    Why did/do so many african/M.E immigrants go thru all sorts of contortions to get to the UK, rather than settling in their first point of landing,
    say Italy, France, Germany etc, etc ?

  21. Kent Nationalist says

    Most of the City supported Remain

  22. Europe Europa says

    Most English people these days are weak, spiritless and self-interested. I don’t think this country collectively has the vision and determination to successfully carry forward a project as grand as Brexit.

    This is compounded by the fact that the English people who DO still have spirit and patriotism left are usually the lesser educated working classes who are no where near the halls of power.

    This has always been the ultimate problem with Brexit, it was voted in favour of by predominantly working class and lower middle class people who have no political power and influence on a practical level, but actually being carried out by upper middle and upper class people who are largely unpatriotic Remainers who regard the people who actually voted for Brexit with contempt.

  23. … And as such, may well happen under a future PM like Keir Starmer.

    I’m less sure about this. At the very least, I think that this would only be done following a new referendum–but even so, a lot might depend on just how the trends in the EU will continue to unfold. If there will continue to be a push for (much?) deeper EU integration, then Britain might prefer to keep the (now new) current arrangement since Britain was one of the most Euroskeptic countries back when it was still in the EU (no Euro adoption, no Schengen Zone entry, et cetera).

  24. Setback for Scottish independence – Mercouris believes there’s a less than 50% chance it will happen. With there still being an easy road to EU re-accession, the Scots may find it easier to do so from London than starting from zero themselves.

    TBH, thought, I’m not sure that Scottish independence would take TOO bad of a hit from this since a large part of its appeal might be based on its romantic charm–you know, Braveheart, haggis, kilts, old fancy castles, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and all of that.

  25. Philip Owen says

    ECHR is not an EU institution. For example, Russia is a member.

    80% of the UK economy and 42% of its EU exports are services. The EU is the only place globally trying for free trade in services. The WTO Doha round collapsed over services which is why bilateral deals are breaking out everywhere. The UK was reamed over services, for example, no financial passports for UK banks. The biggest hit is on Mode 4 services, where people are sent to the customer’s country to deliver and mutual recognition of professional qualications. No more staffing a construction project, training institute or R&D team with Brits on a two year stay. Only 3 months. This is worse than Canada, Japan or even Mexico. Lawyers and accountants are in, engineers and doctors, probably. Plumbers and electricians, no.

    On goods, 0% tariffs are meaningless. The non food average is 1.2%. Half of that is absorbed by the cost of collection. The regulatory paperwork (customs documents, certificates of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary certifcates) will add £10-£15Bn in new costs to trade (much more than the UK’s net contributions to the EU). The big losers will be owner run Italian restaurants importing a few kilos of cheese from a cousin in Italy or someone who used to have 24 hour delivery of a single spare part from Austria. Setting up the paperwork, paying a freight forwarder, paying customs fees will be prohibitive. My robot vacuum cleaner comes from Austria. No replacement consumables now.

    Then there are the 500 databases on trade, chemicals, crime, terrorism, medicines, motor vehicle safety etc etc that will no longer be available. I keep up with Russian trade regulations because it’s my added value. The sales manager with 50 other countries to consider will no longer be able to.

    All this for blue passports and a minor legal change of only technical significance regarding sovereignty. Sovereignty comes from power, money and influence. The UK has lost all three. It is now a middle player like Japan, Russia, Turkey, India. A rule taker not a rule maker. (As the most proactive of the big three in the EU, the UK made most of the rules it wanted finance, pharma, air safety, wireless spectrum. The stupid loons who voted Brexit now own reality. In 15 years the uUK deal will be indistinguishable from the EEA and they won’t even notice.