Come February 1, as Great Britain wakes up to its biggest Brexit hangover, many will be wondering has anything really changed
So, although Big Ben won’t bong, there is little doubt that many in the United Kingdom will be celebrating ‘Brexit Day’ on January 31, 2020.
Pubs like my local in North East England – heart of Brexitland – will probably be packed to rafters for Brexit parties and drinkers will raise their glasses in cheer at 11pm GMT (midnight in Central European Time) to mark the point when the UK formally leaves the European Union.
Don’t get in twitter spats
It will also be the first Brexit deadline to have actually been met – and my advice to those who voted to remain in the EU referendum is to stay away from social media for a day or two and definitely don’t get in to twitter spats with those you don’t agree with.
Now is not the time to change minds! That may come later when we discover whether Brexit is the disaster that some fear or a runaway success – with scientists, health workers and the most talented students from abroad queuing up to put the “Great” back into Britain!
So whether you decide to give any commemorative Brexit 50p coins you get to charity or rush out to buy one of the specially-minted 1,500 Brexit gold coins for sale at £945 each, remember nothing much will change for the next 11 months.
It may feel like “peace in our time” and it is easy to understand why people were attracted to Boris Johnson’s “Get Brexit done” slogan in the UK’s pre-Christmas General Election – but we are now entering the post-Brexit transition period which is due to last until December 2020.
During this period, the UK will keep many of the benefits and obligations of being in the EU: British nationals will no longer be EU citizens, but they will be able to travel around the Union as freely as before.
So while all the British members of the European parliament are packing their bags with fond the memories of “Auld Lang Syne” being sung by MEPs from the 27 countries that we are leaving, the UK will remain a fully integrated part of the single market (at least for now!)
The UK will enter what the Financial Times and many others are calling “a twilight zone” during which it will continue to be bound by all EU laws, but will be ejected from the EU’s political institutions: no more MEPs, no more British seat at the EU leaders’ table, no more UK voice on the boards of the union’s complex technical agencies.
Britain will have no say over the EU rules that will still apply to the country for the next 11 months. The European Commission will have the power to investigate breaches of the bloc’s laws, and the European Court of Justice will have the power to impose fines. The UK will contribute to the EU budget.
British and EU citizens will continue to benefit from free movement during the transition period.
Lots to sort in just 11 months
There is a heck of a lot to try to sort out in just 11 months, but given a fair wind it is possible that the bare bones of a future trade agreement may be sorted between the EU and UK before the end of the year to keep the goods flowing.
What happens about the movement of people between the UK and EU countries after the end of 2020 may take longer than just a year to resolve, especially matters like unskilled workers coming to Britain to carry out essential low-paid work in farming and social care.
As for students coming to the UK to study, who knows whether they may eventually need visas or whether UK universities will be allowed to participate in future European student mobility and joint research schemes such as Erasmus+ and the next Horizon programme.
- On the day the UK formally left the EU, 36 domestic and international higher education and research organisations declared their commitment working together post-Brexit. See their joint statement here
- Main photo: specially-minted… 1,500 Brexit gold coins for sale at £945 each