Brexit is finally over: After breaking with the European Union, Great Britain also left the EU internal market and the customs union in the new year. “This is a great moment for this country. We have freedom in our hands and it is now up to us to make the most of it,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in his New Years address to the British people. Great Britain can now do things differently – “and if necessary better than our friends in the EU”.
After 47 years of membership, Great Britain left the EU at the end of January 2020. At the turn of the year, the eleven-month transition phase since leaving the EU, during which largely the same rules still applied, ended. Now the economic divorce has been carried out.
Any Brexit celebrations had to be absent due to the corona. The capital on the Thames remained calm on New Year’s Eve. But the bells of the Big Ben clock tower, which is currently being restored, struck as an exception at 11 p.m. local time (midnight Brussels time) to herald the new era.
A trade and partnership agreement negotiated with the EU at the last minute should make the break compatible. For example, no tariffs and quantity restrictions will apply to trade in goods. In addition, the almost 1,250-page contract regulates many other topics, including fishing and cooperation in energy, transport, justice, and the police. Great Britain remains bound by many European standards. The parliament in London approved the agreement in record time shortly before the turn of the year, on the EU side it will be applied for the time being because there was not enough time for the vote in the European parliament.
Despite the 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 historic night, Scotland bid farewell to the EU with lots of emotion
On New Year’s Day, there are no feared delays in truck traffic across the English Channel. The situation at the Eurotunnel was calm, said a spokesman for the operator Getlink of the German press agency. One does not expect an increased volume of traffic until the course of January, as not many companies are in charge immediately after the turn of the year.
The authorities had previously announced that they would initially handle the regulations quite loosely. A repetition of the chaos that was observed in the Kent border region before and at Christmas should be avoided at all costs: Thousands of truck drivers had to wait for days in their trucks because France surprisingly closed the border and all those entering the country had a negative corona test had requested. The reason was the discovery of a new and possibly highly contagious coronavirus variant in the south of England.
On the historic night, Scotland bid farewell to the EU with lots of emotion. “Scotland will be back soon,” wrote Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Twitter. “Leave the light on.” She sent a photo showing the words “Europe” and “Scotland” linked with a heart projected onto the building of the EU Commission. Sturgeon aims to break away from the UK and return to the EU.
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, said the Spanish Foreign Ministry. The Brexit trade pact does not apply to Gibraltar. Instead, Gibraltar will 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.