London, United Kingdom – The UK is preparing for a historic break with the European Union that will reset the relationship between them for generations to come.
More than four years after a slim majority of Britons voted to leave the EU, the UK will leave the single market and the Union’s customs union at 11:00 p.m. GMT on Thursday, December 31.
As the new year begins, both parties must abide by the terms of a recently signed agreement, which sets limits on their trade and security relationships.
The UK Parliament on Wednesday quickly approved the deal, meaning it has now been passed into UK law.
In short, Brexit marks the most significant change in the country’s recent history and will reverse decades of closer economic, cultural and social integration with the EU, its main trading partner.
“Historically, it’s really important – it’s the first major example of building barriers to trade and cooperation we’ve seen in the modern period,” said Simon Usherwood, professor of politics at the University of Surrey, at Al Jazeera.
“And there is still some sort of uncertainty as to whether it is about Britain pulling out of the world and pulling the drawbridge or becoming an international player at large and becoming a” World Great Britain ”.
The 1240 pages Trade and cooperation agreement was finally negotiated a week ago, after months of heated negotiations during the so-called transition period, which began after the UK’s official departure from the EU in January.
Once the deal was done, a sense of relief was felt on both sides.
This 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 the start of 2021, smoothing out trade worth hundreds of billions of dollars. pounds – and euros – per year.
Yet London’s imminent departure from Brussels orbit will bring a series of new rules and red tape for businesses.
The way Britons and Europeans live, work and travel between the country and the continent will also change, with new visa regulations.
‘An economic break’
Following the conclusion of the deal, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of a “newly and truly independent nation”.
He won by a landslide in the December 2019 election on a promise to ‘make Brexit’, after the issue effectively ended the political careers of his two predecessors – Theresa May and David Cameron.
Johnson hailed the deal with the EU as a triumph, saying he had achieved what he set out to achieve.
The UK, he said, has regained control of its laws, borders and fishing waters under the pact.
He also stressed that the UK will be the ‘best friend and ally the EU could have’ as the couple reorient themselves to their new relationship.
But Brexit opponents say divorce threatens to break the UK, damage the economy in the long term and weaken its global position.
National economic output will decline by 4% over the next 15 years due to the UK’s departure from the single market and the EU customs union, according to UK watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
EU economies are also expected to be affected, although the impact of Brexit will vary widely across the bloc.
Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands are expected to be hit the hardest, as they trade the most with the UK.
Analysts have said that even with the agreed trade deal, Brexit will effectively lead to a losing financial result for both sides.
“This is an economic disruption … and the biggest one-day change in trade relations in modern history,” David Henig, director of the UK Trade Policy Project at the Centre’s think tank, told Al Jazeera. European for international political economy.
“There are 660 billion pounds [approximately $898bn] value of trade which, tomorrow, will be subject to new, more restrictive rules, ”he said. “We just don’t know what impact it will have, it’s a step into the unknown.”
Henig and Usherwood also expect continued political fallout next year and beyond, citing possible critical points: the disruptions accompanying the implementation of the trade deal, the protocol of the deal for the Northern Ireland and its implications for Scotland, where the ruling Nationalist Party is asking for a second. referendum on independence.
There will be further feuds between London and Brussels as well, with many aspects of the couple’s overall future relationship still to be settled.
“If you assume that the end of Brexit will happen when there is a new stable relationship with the EU, then we are not at that point yet,” Usherwood said.