The UK Has Officially Left The EU: So What Is Next?

On Friday January 31 at exactly 23:00 GMT, the UK left the EU, 47 years after it joined the economic and trading bloc. In his speech, Prime Minister Boris Johnson described it as the dawn of a new era of friendly cooperation between the EU and an energetic Britain.

‘Recaptured Sovereignty’

“This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act in our great national drama. And yes it is partly about using these new powers, this recaptured sovereignty, to deliver the changes people voted for,” Johnson said.

The formal divorce now paves the way for a new chapter of negotiations that will ensure the UK is completely detached from the EU. This will take place within an 11 month transition period. It is imperative to note that during this transition phase there will be big changes, but the UK will continue being subject to EU laws.

The Brexit Transition Period

The UK will continue staying in the single market, meaning there will be the same trade rules and free movement of goods and services. Also, the European Court of Justice will continue to have jurisdiction over the UK, and EU citizens will continue to have the right to exercise their freedom of movement in this country.

That means a Briton—although no longer an EU citizen—can still travel to EU countries without restrictions during the transition phase. The same applies to EU citizens. However, after the 11 month period, EU citizens will need to apply for settlement status by June 2021. And in case of a no deal scenario, EU citizens will need to do so by the end of 2020.

How Brexit Will Affect Britons Living In The EU

Similarly, UK citizens living in other EU countries will need to apply for residence status. However, those visiting EU nations will be allowed a 90 day unrestricted visit.

After the end of the transition period, the UK will introduce a points-based immigration system—similar to that of Australia—which will apply to anyone immigrating to the UK. The scheme was proposed by Johnson immediately after he entered 10 Downing Street midway through last year.

What About British Criminals In The EU?

One thing also worth noting is that after the transition period, it generally will not be possible to bring criminals wanted in the UK back here if they have escaped to other EU countries. A UK warrant will no longer apply in most EU countries.

Germany’s constitution, for instance, bars its citizens from being extradited to non-EU countries. Whether this will also apply to other EU countries is yet to be determined.

The New UK-EU Trade Deal

During the 11 month transition period, the UK and Brussels will also negotiate a new trade relationship, although there have been reservations about the possibility of the talks being completed within the specified period. According to EU officials and experts in negotiations, trade deals of this magnitude generally take years to be completed.

However, Johnson has consistently rejected the suggestion of requesting an extension beyond the transition period. If the two sides fail to reach a deal by the end of the transition phase, it would mean a no deal Brexit.

A sign of the key contentions that are likely to dominate the negotiations emerged last week when some reports claimed that the EU was insisting that the European Court of Justice should have an oversight role over any deal agreed with the UK.

Responding to the reports, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab ruled out such an agreement saying, “We’re not going to be aligning with EU rules. That’s not on the negotiating table, it’s not even an issue of red lines, it’s not even in the negotiating room.”

“We are entering into these negotiations with a spirit of goodwill, but we are just not doing that other stuff, the legislative alignment,” Raab added.

UK Seeks New Trade Partners

In the meantime, the UK will be reaching out to new partners to forge new trade deals. The Foreign Secretary will be traveling soon to Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia to lay the grounds for global trade deals that will be negotiated at the same time the UK will be negotiating with the EU. Brexiteers argue that leaving the EU will enable the UK to formulate its own trade policies which will boost economic growth.

Nevertheless, even as the UK reaches out to new partners, its trade agreement with the EU will be a top priority. It is vital for the UK’s economic health that it eliminates the possibility of trade barriers and extra charges on goods being imposed by Brussels after the transition period ends on December 31, 2021.