Brexit: Britain marks ‘new beginning’ in formal break with EU

Published On January 31, 2020 | By Patrick Simpson | News, Politics

Patrick Simpson

A British Union Jack flag flutters outside of the European Parliament ahead of the vote on the Brexit deal in Brussels on Wednesday. REUTERS/Yves Herman

In a historic move, Britain prepared Friday to formally leave the European Union.

The United Kingdom was expected to officially exit the EU by 11 p.m. local time, which is midnight in Brussels (and 6 p.m. EST).

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday described the late night exit as a curtain going up “on a new act.”

“The most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning,” Johnson said. “This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act. It is a moment of real national renewal and change.”

The British Prime Minister is expected to address the nation an hour before the country formally leaves. The speech is planned to be live-streamed on Johnson’s Facebook page.

This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The reaction from the EU on Friday was pleasant but pointed.

“We want to have the best possible relationship with the United Kingdom but it will never be as good as membership,” said Ursula Von Der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.

On Saturday, the U.K. will enter a transitional period with Europe, meaning both parties have just 11 months to settle on a new free trade deal.

Chris Irwin, professor and program coordinator in Liberal Studies at Humber College, said the real impact of Brexit could come months — or even years — down the line.

“The immediate impacts won’t be tremendous on anyone,” he said.

“But as new arrangements are negotiated — both trade and security, these kinds of things — the real impacts will probably roll out over several months and years,” Irwin said.  

During the short transitional period, residents in the U.K. will still be allowed to freely travel between the other 27 EU member countries and trade will continue unaffected until the end of this year.

However, after that period, the United Kingdom will need to come to an agreement and get the EU’s approval on a new trade deal. If not, “borders could be closed, tariffs could be imposed and a wide range of rules and regulations affecting millions of people could change,” CBCNews reported.

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