January the 31st 2020 will have a special place in the histories of both Britain and Europe. Three and a half years after the UK voted to leave the European Union at 23:00 GMT this evening, the UK will formally leave.
Forty Seven years of EU membership will come to an end, it promises to be a day of symbolism. In Brussels, Brexit Party MEPs walked out of the European Parliament building holding the Union Flag and with a bagpiper leading the way.
Tonight the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to make an address to the nation in which he will hail the dawn of a new era.
We’ve had Brexit dates set before, but as the Union flags flying in central London and the specially minted 50p coins now in circulation suggest, today really is the day that the UK will leave the EU after 47 years whether you love Brexit, loathe it or somewhere in between.
It’s a significant moment, make no mistake, it’s a massive day because as of 11 o’clock or 12 o’clock in Brussels, no one can stop Brexit, it’s done. UK will not be a member state, it cannot rejoin without going through a very complicated process. And at the end of the year, if transition ends, then real practical effects will kick.
In Brussels, British MEPs have already packed up, their jobs will no longer exist, but we’re unlikely to notice much change overnight. The UK will keep following EU rules until the end of December as the government negotiates a new trade deal.
The negotiations are likely to begin almost immediately and the government wants them done by the end of the year, a date the EU has signed up to as well. They will talk about security, defense and the movement of people, and then the centerpiece will definitely be this big trade deal. So it’s a massive undertaking, and it’s also very different from a normal trade deal because usually we’re trying to build bridges and trying to come together, and find an equal ground, but in this case we’re diverging to some degree.
From tonight, the UK will also be free to negotiate its own deals with other countries, and Parliament will soon start the process of deciding on what should go in the new laws that will be drawn up to replace EU ones.MPs will be busy though, they’ll need to pass a lot of legislation in time for next January.
A short time ago, the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said the most important thing after Brexit is to remain united. She said, “There was a very precious experience made by the 27 of the European Union. This is the experience how much unity counts, how strong we are in unity. It’s way more than each single country would ever have on its own, and we made the experience how strong we are in defending our values, our interest, but also protecting our member state Ireland. And therefore this experience of being together and solving problems together was a valuable one, even if as I say, we regret the decision of the British people, but we respect it. And now we open another chapter.”
The Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar made this statement regarding Brexit, “I’m ambitious about the future, EU UK relationship, but I also think we need to be realistic about the dangers. We need to start this new relationship between the EU and the UK on a firm and honest footing, and that means a level playing field. This is very much in Ireland’s interests, as well as that of the Union as a whole.”