The British Parliament passed a law banning the UK from leaving the EU without agreement on 31 October. But this does not rule out Brexit without a deal: no matter what the new law says, all 27 EU member states must agree to the extension. But what if European leaders do not agree to another delay?
The twists and turns of Brexit have deepened the isolation of the political classes in Germany and Britain. German political actors have enough tactical maneuvers in London. Out of a deep respect for, if not admiration for, Westminster democracy, recent events have reinforced the view that its rules and procedures are outdated and its function disrupted. The country's 300-year-old unity could end.
The result that German politicians would like to see is an orderly departure from Britain. At the same time, they realize that the prospect of going out without a deal has grown exponentially, while British voters remain divided over whether to leave. For Berlin, the UK's decision to leave remains a mistake in the historical dimensions of the British people. For this reason, the German government will be willing to allow more time, if this lends itself to correcting this error.
Berlin will be willing to accept another extension of the exit date, and then another if necessary.
For the most part, the German government is concerned about what might happen in the absence of a deal. The Brexit will create a serious political rift between Berlin and London, poisoning the rhetoric and traditional partnership between European countries. This would mean additional costs on the German budget, to offset Britain's refusal to meet its financial obligations, and additional means to support Ireland. While contagion is unlikely to spread to other EU countries immediately, such an outcome could also weaken the concept of integration at a time when signs of erosion are already emerging.
Over the coming years, Britain could become a prominent critic of EU affairs, interacting directly with member states, and saying this is the “natural order” of international affairs: a sovereign state dealing with a sovereign state. London will have no obligation not to meet common European goals and decisions. In pursuing its own interests, such an approach may seek to reinforce anti-German sentiment on the continent, further complicating matters for German policies in the EU.
As a result, without enthusiasm, Berlin will be willing to accept another extension of the exit date, and then another if necessary. However, Germany will not accept any agreement that does not meet the basic conditions agreed in the withdrawal agreement: the UK's financial obligations, the status and rights of EU citizens in the UK, and the open borders of the island of Ireland. If London ultimately comes up with better proposals to secure these necessities, a new deal with Berlin's support could come true.
Despite last month's political divisions in Britain, France's position has not budged. In fact, the important Member State of the Union is least willing to grant another extension, if there is no clear and viable alternative and support. When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson came to Paris at the end of August after visiting the German chancellor, he pledged that he would return with a plan. There is no sign of this plan yet.
France's position has not budged; it is the least willing member to grant another extension. In this context, the French Minister of Budget, Gerald Darmanin, again, last week, that «France is ready not to leave Britain from the European Union». But he said he was concerned about the unwillingness of the British side, especially when the immediate result was to re-establish borders that had not existed for years.
For several months now, Paris has been preparing for a series of exercises that include transporting people and goods at key crossing points, such as Dunkirk, Calais and the Brittany coast. In addition, Prime Minister Edward Phillip has instructed all ministers to raise the standard of work in preparation for a British exit from the European Union, whether it relates to big economic institutions or individuals. The French media have widely publicized a difficult exit scenario, with the British government identifying the most brutal consequences of Britain's secession from the European Union. Navigation through the English Channel will be severely interrupted and may fall by 40-60%. The British exit plan also stipulates that the tight border with Ireland can be restored.
For France, in the absence of a counter-proposal acceptable to the British side, the less bad scenario for Europe would be to put an end to this situation, including not agreeing to an extension; United States and the European Union.
Britain could become a critic of the European Union and interact with its member states. It says this is the "natural order" of international affairs: a sovereign state dealing with a sovereign state.