The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020 and has entered an 11-month transition period. To be fair, this was not the first time, as they Brexit-ed even before it was cool. Around 6100 BC, during the Mesolithic period, Britain broke free of mainland Europe.
Throughout this transition period, the UK remains in the EU’s customs union and single market, paying into its budget and continuing to obey EU rules. Nevertheless, it is no longer part of the political institutions, will play no part in the EU law-making process, nor will they be EU citizens anymore. However, British citizens can continue to live, work, study and retire in the EU, while EU27 nationals enjoy those reciprocal rights in the UK.
There is a set timetable for the year with negotiations expected to formally kick off in a few days. By July 1, there must be a UK decision on whether to ask for an extension to the transition period, as it can be extended one time, for up to two years. Boris Johnson, though, has repeatedly vowed to complete the departure by the end of the year. If he sticks to his word, they will have to strike a deal with the EU at an unusually fast pace. For example, it took “only” seven years for the EU and Canada to negotiate their 2016 trade deal, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement or CETA. Moreover, these talks will be unprecedented, as, beyond trade and security, there is…everything else. Foreign affairs, data, fisheries, cultural-educational ties, aviation, carbon pricing, anti-money laundering, illegal migration, sanctions on rogue states, and much more.
The First Steps
The first priority will be to negotiate a trade deal. The UK wants as much access as possible for its goods and services to the EU. Mr. Johnson said that he wanted a comprehensive free trade deal with Europe, similar to CETA. Both sides want to work out a trade agreement, ideally with no tariffs and no quotas, and keep trade barriers low.
The question of the Irish border remains the single most contentious part of the Brexit deal because of the checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea. It will become the only land border between the UK and the EU. Deal, or no-deal the Northern Ireland protocol aims to avoid the introduction of a hard border. That was a crucial part of the draft Withdrawal Agreement.
If no trade deal has been agreed and ratified by the end of the year, then the UK faces the prospect of tariffs on exports to the EU. If countries do not have free-trade agreements, they usually trade with each other under rules set by the World Trade Organization. In that case, if the UK chooses to put no tariffs on goods from the EU, it must also have no tariffs on goods from every WTO member. This outcome would be more damaging for the UK, but talks would roll on.
Although Brexit will certainly affect the UK more than the EU in almost every respect, it will weaken the EU economically and politically as well. Britain was the EU’s second-biggest economy, one of the bloc’s two nuclear powers and permanent UN Security Council members.
The more space Britain puts between its rules and Europe’s, the bloc’s leaders have said, the more they will hamper Britain’s access to the European market. It would have huge domestic consequences. However, with representatives of the car industry, hospitals, agriculture, and directors already expressing alarm over the declaration that the UK will not follow EU rules. This would cause hold-ups in Dover and Calais and possibly lead to businesses quitting the country. Checks and controls could create massive gridlocks at the aforementioned ports of entry, which could lead to food and medicine shortages.
Without a doubt, the British New Year’s Eve (31 January) was a milestone, but a much more significant moment could be 1 January 2021, the UK’s first day outside the EU’s nest…with or without a deal.
The author of this article was Szebasztián Simic, an undergraduate student at the University of Szeged studying for an International Relations and a Political Sciences degree.