Brexit: Four years after the Brexit vote, the UK leaves the orbit of the EU | Brexit news

The UK has left the single market and the EU customs union as the Brexit saga enters a new chapter.

The UK left the economic and political orbit of the European Union in a historic departure that divided the British politically and marked the country’s biggest change on the modern day world stage.

As the clock struck at 11 p.m. in London on Thursday, December 31, the UK exited the single market and the Union customs union at the end of the Brexit transition period.

Supporters say the move will enable the UK to seize new opportunities as an independent world power.

But critics say it is reversing decades of integration with its closest neighbor and threatens to shatter the UK, damage the country’s economy and diminish its international reputation.

“This is an incredible time for this country,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in his New Year’s Eve message. “We have our freedom in our hands and it’s up to us to make the most of it.”

Relations between London and Brussels will now be reset under the terms of their recently signed trade and cooperation agreement.

Thursday’s momentous change came more than four years after a slim majority of Britons voted to leave the EU in a referendum in June 2016.

The vote sparked a political crisis in the UK that ended the political careers of Johnson’s two predecessors, Theresa May and David Cameron, polarized the country, saw a rise in xenophobia and deteriorated relations with the bloc, its biggest trading partner.

Relations between London and Brussels will now be reset under the terms of their recently signed trade and cooperation agreement.

It is essentially a close free trade pact, accompanied by other agreements on a range of issues, including energy, transport and police and security cooperation.

The deal was finally negotiated a week ago, after months of heated negotiations in the so-called transition period, which began after the UK’s official departure from the EU in January.

The deal avoids the prospect of a chaotic divorce and ensures that goods can continue to travel between the UK and the EU without tariffs or quotas from early 2021, smoothing trade worth hundreds of billions of pounds – and euros – a year.

But London’s departure from Brussels orbit will nonetheless entail a series of new rules and red tape for companies.

The way Britons and Europeans live, work and travel between the country and the continent will also change, with the entry into force of new visa regulations.

There was sadness outside the British Embassy in Brussels on Thursday, as around 20 Britons held a candlelight vigil and sang the Scottish farewell song Auld Lang Syne to ‘mourn’ the departure of Britain .

“We mourn what we have lost,” Jeremy Thomas, a West Yorkshire computer engineer who first moved from Wakefield to Belgium in 1972 and returned in 2002 with his family, told Reuters news agency . “I have no word for what we throw away.”

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