Brexit is becoming a reality: Great Britain finally closes its exit from the European Union at midnight on Thursday. Then, after an eleven-month transition phase since leaving the EU, membership in the EU internal market and in the customs union will also end. At the turn of the year, the economic divorce will take place. At the last minute there was an agreement for the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on New Year’s Eve.
“The fate of this great country is now firmly in our hands,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “On December 31st at 11 pm (local time) a new beginning in the history of our country and a new relationship with the EU as its closest ally will begin. That moment has finally come and now is the time to seize it,” said Johnson, who wanted to spend the historic hour with his family in his official residence on London’s Downing Street.
The British Parliament had waved through the ratification law presented by Johnson within a few hours shortly before the turn of the year. Head of State Queen Elizabeth II approved the law with her “Royal Assent” on Thursday night. On New Year’s Eve, the contract was officially published in the EU’s legal gazette. A spokesman for the German EU Council Presidency announced that it could be used provisionally from January 1, 2021 as planned. “A no deal was averted just in time,” he wrote on Twitter. On the EU side, there was not enough time for ratification in the European Parliament. That should not follow until spring.
After 47 years of membership, Great Britain left the EU at the end of January 2020. The trade and partnership agreement negotiated with the EU at the last minute is now intended to avoid a hard break. The most important point is that de facto no tariffs and quantity restrictions will apply to trade in goods in the future. In addition, the almost 1250-page contract regulates many other topics, including fishing and cooperation in energy, transport, justice and the police.
The CSU European politician Manfred Weber regards Brexit as a “lesson for the failure of the populists”. With the Brexit referendum and the election of US President Donald Trump, 2016 was “the climax of Twitter populism,” Weber said. “People are feeling in 2020 and ’21 that this type of policy is not producing good results.” Nevertheless, EU states will not be immune to future divisions, said Weber, who is the group leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) in the European Parliament. “I also believe that the shock of Brexit is now deep and that many have also learned how we have to deal with Europe, how we have to deal with each other.”
An agreement was reached on New Year’s Eve on a particularly difficult point: Spain and Great Britain have agreed that the British overseas territory of Gibraltar will join the Schengen area, which is usually free of 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, said Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya in Madrid. 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.
Despite the post-Brexit trade pact, there are major changes on both sides at the turn of the year. For citizens, the possibility of simply moving is over. The visa exemption for travel will also be limited in time 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 Brexit is finally completed, it is not expected that there will be another traffic chaos in the first days of January. “I am confident that everything will work out fine on January 1st,” said John Keefe, the boss of Getlink, one of the train operators active in the Eurotunnel between Great Britain and France, according to the broadcaster BBC. “I don’t think the traffic will change will stow before the first or second week of January. This quiet initial phase allows everyone to prepare. “
Quiet traffic expected
Government circles also said that calm traffic was initially expected. Since the weekend is right after the New Year’s holiday, 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.