Four and a half years after the 2016 referendum, Brexit is final at 23:00 local time and GMT Thursday, with the country stopping applying European Union rules following its withdrawal from the European single market and the customs union.
After 47 years of turbulent European integration, and after four and a half years of ups and downs that followed the 2016 referendum, Brexit was finally completed after it became official on January 31, but its effects were postponed through a transitional period aimed at absorbing the shock.
In an editorial published in the Daily Telegraph, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the most prominent engineer of Brexit, affirmed that 2021 will be “a year of change and hope”, praising the free trade agreement concluded with Brussels BC.
“ For us, this means the end of the malevolent disputes over Europe that poisoned our policy for a long time,” Johnson said, adding, “ For our friends, this certainly does not mean that they lost us, or our desire for Maserati cars.”
The free exchange agreement reached with Brussels would spare the two parties a harsh exit that would have left devastating economic repercussions, but the change is actual. The free movement that allows goods and people to move unimpeded at the borders has stopped except for movement between Spain and Gibraltar, the British region, as well as between Northern Ireland. And the Republic of Ireland.
From now on, it is necessary to fill out customs data, undergo health checks for export through the English Channel, obtain a residence card in order to settle on the opposite bank, and a health certificate for dogs and cats that are transported with their owners to the European Union countries.
On Friday morning, when the first ferries set out towards France, the English port of Dover was calm without the obstacles that some feared due to the new customs procedures and inspections that went into effect.
Police were checking that truck drivers abided by the rules and that they were not infected with the emerging coronavirus before allowing them to continue on their way.
Johnson promised his citizens a stronger position in the world for Britain as a leader in free exchange, but in the near future, Britain, which is leaving the bosom of Europe, is recording high deaths and infections with the emerging Corona virus, and the worst economic crisis in three decades.
London has concluded trade agreements with 60 countries, including Japan, but the settlement it wanted with the United States may falter with Donald Trump leaving power and Joe Biden arriving at the White House.
However, the country faces major challenges, especially the accelerating spread of the epidemic that has caused the death of more than 73,500 people, which is among the worst in Europe, and in the worst economic crisis in three decades.
Internally, Johnson should unify the ranks of the British, who were divided over Brexit as the country’s unity cracked; Northern Ireland and Scotland voted against leaving the European Union, and they dream of independence.
The prominent port of Holyhead in Wales near Ireland could see “delays in the coming weeks,” as the Media Center for Road Traffic in Wales warned on Twitter. Friday’s six shipments were refused because they did not conform to the rules.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC): “ From now on, trade exchange worth 80 billion euros will be exposed to obstacles across the Sea of #Ireland between Britain and Ireland due to controls, permits, bureaucracy, cost and delay.”
Britain left the European single market without a word of farewell from the European Union. In Brussels, none of the leaders of European institutions has commented on the final divorce between the two parties.
With Brexit, companies operating in financial services, a major sector in London, will lose their right to automatically offer their services in the European Union, and they will have to open offices in member states in order to be able to work in them. British universities will from now on be excluded from the “#Erasmus” student exchange program.
The agreement provides Britain with access to the vast European market of 450 million consumers, without customs duties or quotas, but the European Union reserves the right to impose sanctions and demand compensation to avoid any unfair competition, in case its rules in the area of government aid, the environment and the right to work are not respected. And taxes.
When it rang at 23:00 on Thursday, local time, the United Kingdom was no longer enforcing European Union rules and the freedom of movement of more than 500 million people between Britain and 27 European Union countries ended.
Smooth movement across the manche
About 200 trucks passed through the Channel Tunnel “without any problem” on Thursday / Friday night, after the United Kingdom left the European single market and reinstated customs procedures, according to the administration of “#Getlink” that operated the tunnel.
“The traffic was well managed for an exceptional and historic night,” a spokesperson for the group said. “ Everything went well.”
On the French side, new official measures came into effect at midnight, with the arrival of the first truck to transport heavy goods from Romania, at the checkpoint for trucks heading to the United Kingdom.
In addition to the usual safety and security measures, the police checked the license plate of this truck in front of the media. Likewise, the first train from the United Kingdom emptied the first batch of trucks safely.
The companies now have to submit to two-way formalities and declare their goods to French customs through an online system called “smart borders”.