LONDON — It took 11 grueling months for negotiators from Britain and the European Union to hammer out the terms of a post-Brexit trade deal. But in many respects, the deal is already four and a half years out of date.
The world has changed radically since June 2016, when a narrow majority of people in Britain voted to leave the European Union, tempted by an argument that the country would prosper by throwing off the bureaucratic shackles of Brussels.
In those days, the vision of an agile, independent Britain — free to develop profitable, next-generation industries like artificial intelligence and cut its own trade deals with the United States, China and others — was an alluring sales pitch. The buccaneers of Brexit promised to create a “Global Britain.”
That was before the anti-immigrant and anti-globalist-fueled rise of President Trump and other populist leaders who erected barriers to trade and immigration and countries turned inward. It was before the coronavirus pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of far-flung supply chains, fueling calls to bring strategic industries back home and throwing globalism into retreat.
In the anxious dawn of 2021, buccaneers are out of fashion. The world is now dominated by three gargantuan economic blocs — the United States, China and the European Union. Britain has finalized its divorce from one of them, leaving it isolated at a time when the path forward seems more perilous than it once did.
“The whole ‘Global Britain’ model doesn’t reflect the more protectionist, nationalistic world we’re living in,” said Thomas Wright, the director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution. “Becoming a global
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