Britain will leave the EU on Friday night at 11pm local time after three years of bitter debate. Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images.
Britain will leave the EU on Friday night at 11pm local time after three years of bitter debate. Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Brexit: What will actually change?

AT 11pm GMT (10am Saturday AEDT) on Friday, January 31, 2020, Britain will leave the European Union (EU) after nearly five decades of membership.

The move marks an end to three years of bitter debate ever since the result of the June 2016 referendum in which the UK voted to leave by 52 per cent to 48.

So what will actually change now that Britain has left the EU? Here's what you need to know about the post-Brexit world.

 

 

WHAT HAPPENS ON JANUARY 31?

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has managed to pass his Withdrawal Agreement Bill in parliament, meaning that at 11pm on January 31, 2020 - midnight Brussels time - Britain will cease to be a member of the EU.

The date is highly symbolic as a point of no return for the UK, which has been a member of the bloc since 1973 and will be the first country to leave.

It means Article 50, which triggered the UK's departure, can no longer be revoked and Britain would have to reapply to join like anyone else.

It will also lose decision-making ability on the European Council and inside the European parliament, with members (like Nigel Farage) no longer taking their seats.

The UK will also take its own seat at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and won't have representation on the European Court of Justice.

But outside these high-level events, not much will change daily. The UK and EU will move into an 11-month transition period in which they will move to the second phase of their negotiations - what the future trading relationship between the two powers will look like.

Freedom of movement between Britain and the EU will remain in place in the transition period, with no need for visas or new lines at airports. Those travelling have been warned to ensure their passports are valid for at least six months.

From early 2020, new blue British passports will be issued alongside the current burgundy ones without the European Union wording on them. By mid-2020, all UK passports will be blue.

Three million new 50p coins will also be issued in Britain to mark the occasion with "Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations" and 31 January 2020 on them.

For some, it will be their second incarnation as one million of the coins were ordered for the first Brexit date of October 31, 2019, but had to be melted down when a new date was confirmed.

 

The UK Government will issue new blue passports that will be in use by mid-2020. Picture: UK Government.
The UK Government will issue new blue passports that will be in use by mid-2020. Picture: UK Government.

 

WHAT IS THE TRANSITION PERIOD?

On February 1, the UK and EU will move into a transition period that lasts until December 31, 2020 in which they will work out the future trade relationship between the two countries.

During this time the status quo will remain, with Britain remaining part of the EU single market and customs union. The PM will have until July 1 to ask for an extension to the transition period; however, Mr Johnson has already ruled this out.

In the 11-month period, negotiators will work furiously to do a deal with the EU that covers the intricate web of agreements built up over the last four decades in everything from agriculture to medicines.

Crucially, Britain has gained the right to develop trade deals with other nations at the same time, meaning countries like the US, Australia, NZ, Japan and India will also be working behind the scenes to score their own post-Brexit deal with the UK.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said "global Britain" is keen so show it can be "even greater, neighbours allies and friends" to countries like Australia and "rejuvenate" relationships that may have been neglected.

"We definitely see this as a turning of the page and are looking forward to forging even stronger ties in future," he told the Foreign Press Association in London.

"We're excited about the months and years ahead," he said. "Beyond the free trade agenda, there is a great opportunity for this country to be an even stronger force for good in the world."

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. The pair hope to sign a free trade deal, but key issues over tech giants and Huawei could prove problematic. Picture: Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo via AP.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. The pair hope to sign a free trade deal, but key issues over tech giants and Huawei could prove problematic. Picture: Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo via AP.

 

IS IT AS SIMPLE AS IT SOUNDS?

There is a huge amount of ground to cover in the next 11 months for a trade deal to be negotiated; however, EU and UK negotiators have committed to the timetable and think it can be done.

The two powers will start from a position of regulatory alignment, given the UK has been part of the EU's single market; however, free trade deals are notoriously complex and time consuming, with the EU's fastest-ever deal with South Korea taking more than two years.

Also at stake is the fundamental issue of the EU single market and whether Britain can have access to this without accepting things like freedom of movement, which it has ruled out.

Europe is worried that Britain could position itself as a "Singapore-on-Thames" and try to gain a competitive advantage for attracting big business with a low-tax offering.

 

Nigel Farage will be celebrating as the architect of the UK’s Brexit. Picture: Jean Francois Badias, File.
Nigel Farage will be celebrating as the architect of the UK’s Brexit. Picture: Jean Francois Badias, File.


Brussels' chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said this week there was "no time to lose" and a "risk of a cliff edge" by the end of the year if a deal wasn't done.

"Round one is over and we have to rebuild everything," he said. "If we have no agreement, it will not be business as usual and the status quo. We have to face a risk of a cliff edge, in particular, for trade.

"We have no time to lose with any polemics and to use this time to rebuild this friendship, this relationship."

UK PM Boris Johnson wants to agree to terms based on Canada's free trade deal with the EU. Some Brits argue a "piecemeal" deal covering a smattering of the most key goods and services, security and fishing could be done.

However, Irish leader Leo Varadkar said EU negotiators didn't want anything other than a comprehensive deal.

"When I hear people talk about piecemeal, it sounds a bit like cake and eat," he said, referring to securing only a partial deal by the end of the year.

"That isn't something that will fly in Europe."

 

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER DECEMBER 31, 2020?

There are three outcomes at the end of the transition period - a deal, no deal or an extension. If any extension is to take place, we would know by July.

If a "no deal" occurs, this means trade would revert to a World Trade Organisation tariff-based scenario that could increase prices across the board in food and manufactured goods, with plenty of uncertainty and disruption.

UK officials claim that despite the threat of disruption, businesses at least know they have to prepare to leave the EU on December 31, 2020 either way.

 

 

The decision has led to huge clashes in Britain between Brexiteers and remainers. Government aides have sworn off using the B-word after January 31. Picture: AP Photo/Matt Dunham.
The decision has led to huge clashes in Britain between Brexiteers and remainers. Government aides have sworn off using the B-word after January 31. Picture: AP Photo/Matt Dunham.

 

WHAT WILL HAPPEN ON FRIDAY NIGHT?

Ahead of the Brexit moment, the focus will be on unity with a light display at Downing Street and a clock counting down the final hour.

Despite campaigning for leave, Mr Johnson has vowed to bring the country together and won't be publicly gloating about the result that split the country down the middle and divided families. His advisers have even sworn off using the "B-word" in future.

Union Jacks will fly in London's Mall but will be quietly lowered in Brussels. At the final session of the EU parliament with British members this week, commission president Ursula von der Leyen spoke of "the agony of parting".

"We will always love you and we will never be far," she said

Brexit cheerleader-in-chief Nigel Farage will gather in London's parliament square to celebrate, but for many, the night will quietly mark the end of an era.

victoria.craw@news.com.au


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