Britain leaves the EU just before the New Year

Last night Britain formally left the European Union's single market and customs union to chart its own path after a long drawn four and a half year tussle of negotiations. 

For 47 years, London has benefited from the free movement of people, goods, and services with mainland Europe. Precisely at 11 pm on December 31, Brexit kicked in, ending an arrangement that many had come to take for granted. Brexit was effected 11 months ago, but the practicality of its implementation begins last night as the nation preps for the New Year. 

Also read: Is the economic future of post-Brexit UK in Asia? (Opinion)

Despite the new reality that will have its fair share of red tape, Brexit supporters view this as a proud moment of reclaiming the country’s independence. Prime Minister Boris Johnson ran a spirited push advocating for Brexit.  In a New Year’s message, he urged fellow countryfolk to make the most of this historic moment. 

The break has left the two parties in a legal limbo which will manifest as the transition details are revealed. Unfortunately, with the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown restrictions at a maximum, any form of mass gatherings was curtailed. Nevertheless, a few defiant Brexiteers made a toast outside parliament at 11 pm.

The much-anticipated trade agreement was sealed on Christmas Eve after several months of tough negotiations that ensured Britain and the 27-member EU continent continued to enjoy tariff-free quotas and tariffs.  Now that a deal is in place, 660 billion pounds worth in trade between the two sides supporting hundreds of jobs is fairly secured.

Most companies face a slew of costs and paperwork extending from custom declarations to heaping paperwork. Traders are struggling to digest the rules within the 1200 page trade deal. 

Also read: Brexit Latest: EU - UK on the verge of a Brexit trade deal

New measures employed will see interruptions in travel across the port of Dover and the Eurotunnel passenger and freight route. All business people hope they do not see signs of a closed border as was witnessed when France closed up for 2 days in the wake of the new coronavirus variant rapidly spreading across Britain. 

The services sector makes up 80% of the British economy and is still uncertain over what the rules will look like in 2021. Most of the fine details are yet to be worked out. Other life-changing disruptions are loss of the right to work and live in each other’s territory. People will have to adhere to immigration rules and sign up for work visas. 

Also read: Brexit: Truck drivers from UK heading to the EU face ban on ham sandwiches

As Boris Johnson celebrated the deal as a success, the sentiment was different across the channel as the French President Emmanuel Macron described “regret” of the loss of their friendly neighbor. He candidly described it as a product of “European malaise”, “lies and false promises”.

Ph: FT

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