Friday, January 1st, 2021
Great Britain and EU finally divorced
Great Britain was part of the European Union for 47 years. After leaving at the end of January, the eleven-month transition phase will end on New Year’s Eve. The kingdom no longer belongs to the EU internal market and the customs union.
A new era has begun for Great Britain: With the exit from the EU internal market and the customs union on Friday night, Brexit is finally completed after a transition period of eleven months. At midnight, a post-Brexit agreement came into effect, designed to avoid a harsh economic break between the UK and the EU. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of a “great moment” for his country.
At 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 48 years as part of the European community of states. “We hold our freedom in our hands and it’s up to us to make the most of it,” said Johnson in his New Years address. 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 EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier did not share Johnson’s euphoria and that of the Brexit supporters: “Nobody was able to show me the added value of Brexit, not even Mr. Farage,” Barnier told RTL radio station with reference to Brexit pioneer Nigel Farage. “It’s a divorce, you can’t celebrate a divorce.”
Last minute solution for Gibraltar
Great Britain was the first country in the history of the European community to leave the EU on February 1st. At that time the “Brexiteers” celebrated the exit from the EU on the streets, while the opponents of Brexit held vigils and lit candles. No public events are planned this year due to the corona pandemic.
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. 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.
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.
The rules for border traffic for the British exclave Gibraltar in southern Spain were controversial to the end. Since the rules of the Schengen area are now to apply, 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.