It was a long, convoluted process, but more than 3 years since the infamous referendum, the United Kingdom has finally left the European Union. On Friday the 31st pro-Brexit celebrations could be seen in Westminster, whilst pro-EU rallies were held in Edinburgh.
While officially out of the union, Britain now enters a transitional stage due to last for the remainder of 2020, in which the UK will forfeit its membership in the European Parliament and European Commission while still contributing to the EU budget, following EU regulations, and adhering to the rulings of the European Court of Justice.
During this period, Britain will have to negotiate agreements with the European Union and its members. Trade appears as the crucial point for many, with currently 49% of British trade involving the EU. The UK will also be allowed to enter negotiations with other trade partners during its transition, but will remain in the customs union. So far British PM Boris Johnson has suggested that the government would prefer a deal with the EU following Canadian lines, allowing tariff-free trade with the union without adhering with regulations from Brussels. However, Mr Johnson has also expressed contempt with an Australian-style ‘loose agreement’, which some critics say will have the same effect as a no-deal exit.
Regarding other issues such as Movement and Labour, nothing will change during The Transition. However, new agreements regarding travel and working rights will have to be negotiated for the future.
Negotiations will start March 3rd and will last until the end of the year, but just as the Brexit process saw multiple delays, so can The Transition be prolonged; 12-24 month extensions are available if both parties deem them necessary, a possibility which Mr Johnson has already dismissed.
Domestically, Brexit has left deep divisions within British society, with pro and anti-EU rallies seen across the nation. The city of Norwich saw Blatantly xenophobic ‘Happy Brexit Day’ posters hung on doors in a tower block (See News section). Meanwhile, Scotland now calls for an Independence referendum which would see the majority pro-EU region seek self-governance for the second time since 2014.
The European response has of course, not been warm. The EU quickly declared its support for Spanish territorial claims over the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. Emmanuel Macron has commented on the huge historical significance of Brexit, as well as condemning a Brexit campaign of “lies, exaggerations and cheques that were promised but will never come”. Leading EU politicians such as Michel Barnier and Ursula von der Leyen have already stated the EU’s commitment to its interests, and will demonstrate so in the negotiations starting 3 March, with others implying the enthusiasm which would follow a Scottish bid to re-join the EU.