UAt 11.00 p.m. (00.00 a.m. CET), the chiming of Big Ben’s bell heralded a new chapter in the country’s history: After 47 years as part of the European community, Great Britain finally left the EU. At midnight (CET), a post-Brexit agreement came into force, which aims to avoid a severe economic break between the UK and the EU. At the Eurotunnel terminal in Calais, French officials began implementing the new customs formalities punctually at midnight, starting with a truck that came from Romania and transported mail and parcels. At midnight (CET), a post-Brexit agreement came into force, which aims to avoid a severe economic break between the UK and the EU.
“We hold our freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it,” Johnson said in his New Years address on Thursday evening. The UK could do things “differently – and if necessary better – than our friends in the EU,” said Johnson. The country could conclude “trade agreements around the world”.
The tabloid “Daily Express” featured the British flag with the words “Freedom” on the front page of its Friday edition and the headline was: “Our future. Our Great Britain. Our fate”. The left-liberal daily “The Guardian” put it somewhat more cautiously: “In the crisis, without fanfare, the United Kingdom is finally ending the European era.” Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon did not share Johnson’s euphoria and that of Brexit supporters: “Scotland will soon be back in Europe, ”she wrote on Twitter. Sturgeon is determined to hold a new referendum on independence from the UK.
No celebrations due to corona restrictions
Great Britain was the first country in the history of the European community to leave the EU on February 1st. Back then, the “Brexiteers” celebrated their exit from the EU on the streets, while the opponents of Brexit held vigils and lit candles. Because of the corona pandemic, no public events or celebrations are planned this year.
The post-Brexit agreement, which regulates numerous trade and customs issues, was only agreed at the last minute on December 24th. The agreement is intended to prevent chaos in mutual economic relations – without the deal, delivery problems and long border jams would have threatened from Friday.
On Friday night, none of the heads of the European institutions from Brussels spoke up. The time until the end of the year was no longer sufficient for a regular ratification process with the approval of the EU Parliament. Therefore, the agreed rules are to be applied temporarily until at least February 28th.
Last minute agreement
A few hours before the final implementation of Brexit, the last stumbling blocks were cleared out of the way on Thursday: The governments in London and Madrid reached an agreement in principle on the future rules for Gibraltar. The provisions of the Schengen Agreement will apply to the British exclave in the future. This means that border crossings are still possible without passport control. Without the agreement, the border between Gibraltar and Spain would have become a “hard border” between Great Britain and the EU from Friday.
At the last minute there was also an agreement for the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on New Year’s Eve: Spain and Great Britain agreed that Gibraltar would join the Schengen area without border controls. This will prevent the border between Spain and Gibraltar on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula from becoming an impermeable EU external border from January 1, 2021, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
The general post-Brexit trade pact does not apply to Gibraltar. Instead, as a surprising consequence of Brexit, Gibraltar will now bind itself more closely to Spain and the EU. In the 2016 Brexit referendum, 96 percent of Gibraltar’s 33,000 residents voted to remain in the EU.
Big changes are imminent despite the trade pact
Despite the post-Brexit trade pact, there are now major changes on both sides of the English Channel. Moving will be made more difficult, and the visa-free travel will also be limited in future. In the future, controls will be necessary at borders because standards have to be checked, including for agricultural products.
On the English Channel, once the Brexit is finally completed, it is not expected that there will be traffic chaos again in the first days of January. “I do not think that the traffic will jam before the first or second week of January,” said John Keefe, the boss of Getlink, one of the train operators in the Eurotunnel between Great Britain and France, according to the broadcaster BBC. “This quiet initial phase enables everyone to prepare.” Government circles also said that initially calm traffic was expected. Since the weekend is right after the New Year, the dreaded queues could only build up afterwards. The first logistics companies stated that they would delay their journeys and first observe the situation.
A repetition of the chaos that was observed before and at Christmas in the Kent border region should be avoided at all costs. Thousands of long-distance drivers had to wait in their trucks for days because France unexpectedly closed the border and demanded a negative corona test from all travelers. The reason was the appearance of a new and possibly highly contagious coronavirus variant that had been discovered in the south of England.