Now it’s official: Great Britain and the EU have made the break – to the delight of British Prime Minister Johnson. France and Scotland, however, regret the move. The feared chaos at the borders did not materialize.
A new era has begun for Great Britain and the EU: With the exit from the EU internal market and the customs union, Brexit has now finally been completed. 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 11:00 p.m., i.e. 12:00 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 of states.
Border traffic rolls without any problems
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. The chaos at the borders that had long been feared did not materialize. Around 200 trucks crossed the tunnel under the English Channel at night “without problems”, as the tunnel operator’s group, Getlink, announced.
All truck drivers had completed the formalities made necessary by Brexit, no one was stopped. From now on, transport companies have to register their goods with French customs, which is done in advance using a “Smart Border” system.
No tariffs in the future either
The largely smooth process is thanks to the post-Brexit agreement reached at the last minute, which from now on regulates trade relations between Great Britain and the EU. Without the deal, delivery problems and long border congestion would have threatened.
The most important point of the agreement is that 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.
As a result, Great Britain remains bound by European standards in several areas. Still, there are big changes. In the future, controls will be necessary at borders because standards have to be checked, including for agricultural products. For citizens, the possibility of simply moving is over. The visa exemption for travel will also be limited in time in future.
“Scotland will be back soon”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson celebrated the development in his New Years address. The separation is a great moment. “We have freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it,” he said in a video message. The UK could do things “differently – and if necessary better – than our friends in the EU,” said Johnson.
Despite Johnson’s euphoria, many remain skeptical – on both sides of the English Channel. In Scotland, which had a majority vote to remain in the EU in 2016, supporters of independence from the UK have grown. Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Scotland will be back soon, Europe.”
French President Emmanuel Macron expressed regret over the divorce in his New Years address. “This decision to leave Europe, this Brexit, was the child of European malaise and lots of lies and false promises.”