Brexit: questions and answers

The UK is no longer a member of the EU, but it is not yet the end of Brexit.

The end of the transition period is getting closer and closer, and the UK and the EU are trying to agree on new rules for their relations from next year onwards. There will be many changes, from business to immigration and everything will be in force from 1 January 2021. 

That said it seems like it has been a piece of cake for the UK to get to this point. But in reality, there is much more behind this event, and then there’s also the Coronavirus that no one had anticipated

At this point, if you missed a few steps or didn’t understand why the UK is leaving Europe, try to follow me and I will tell you.

In the meantime here, there are the answers to some questions.

Didn’t the UK already leave the EU with a deal? 

Yes, it left the EU on 31 January with the withdrawal agreement. Its aim was to get the UK out of the EU smoothly and as soon as possible. This agreement does not talk about agreements for the future. That’s why Boris Johnson continues to deal with the EU. The agreement of 31 January only talks about things like preparing the transition period and regulating it, how to resolve the issue of controls on the Irish border, and getting your hands on the financial issue between the UK and the EU.

What is the transition period?

It is a phase of 11 months that started after Brexit day. During this period the UK continued to follow the Union rules and continued to trade goods as if Brexit did not exist. The British also continued to pay into the EU budget.

In practice, the idea behind the agreement is to keep most things unchanged so as to give both parties some breathing space to negotiate the relationship in the future. There is just over a month until 31 December 2020 when the transition period will end and it is no longer even possible to obtain an extension that has already expired a while ago.   

What happens if there is no agreement on 31 December?

After 31 December, the UK will automatically abandon the EU’s main trade agreements (the Single Market and the Customs Union).

The Single Market means that countries share the same rules on product standards and access to services, while the Customs Union is an agreement between EU countries not to tax each other’s goods.

So unless a new trade agreement is concluded between the UK and the EU, tariffs and border controls will be applied to British goods traveling to the EU – according to World Trade Organisation rules. The UK also decides what tariffs and controls to impose on EU goods. Tariffs would make British goods more expensive and more difficult to sell in the EU, while border controls are expected to cause long delays in ports.

Failure to reach an agreement would also result in the loss of guaranteed access to the EU for the UK services sector. This would affect everyone from bankers to lawyers, musicians, and cooks.

Going back to trade agreements even if an agreement were reached in this sector, not all controls would be lifted – so UK companies would have to prepare.

A small guide to trade negotiations between the UK and the EU.

In addition to trade, there are other issues to consider after 31 December – including access to fisheries and security cooperation. 

All trade agreements that the UK will conclude with non-EU countries can start on 1 January (once the UK has left the EU Customs Union). Brexit supporters have long argued that allowing the UK the freedom to determine its own trade policy will benefit the economy – although critics say it is more important to remain close to the EU.

At this point in the midst of all these agreements, tariffs and regulations, I have to ask: what about the Irish border?

After Brexit, the 310-mile border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is the only land border between the UK and the EU.

All parties want to avoid border controls, given the previous story – known as The Troubles, which I will tell you another time.

However, finding a solution was very difficult during the initial negotiations.

Theresa May, the previous British Prime Minister, came up with a plan called the Irish “backstop”. But she was forced to resign after many of her MPs argued that her deal would keep the UK too close to the EU.

In October 2019, Boris Johnson, May’s successor, eliminated him and replaced him with the Northern Ireland (NI) protocol.

I just go on to say a few words to you now on this subject, but on the Irish question, as I have already told you above, I would like to talk to you about it in a separate article.

In practice under the NI protocol, which will start on 1 January 2021, Northern Ireland will continue to follow certain EU rules, with zero border controls.

However, the agreement will mean that certain goods arriving in Northern Ireland from other parts of the UK (England, Scotland, and Wales) will have to be checked to ensure they meet EU standards. Any fees to be paid will be refunded if the goods remain in Northern Ireland and there is no movement to the Republic of Ireland.

In September 2020, the UK Government said it wanted to amend parts of the NI protocol by introducing a new law in Parliament. It stated that this is necessary to clarify certain parts of the protocol in order to avoid interruptions on 1 January. But on the other hand, the government acknowledged that its proposal would violate international law in a “very specific and limited” way.

You may be thinking why the British are doing this. And so complicated, why did they not stay in Europe? 

Well, I will answer these questions article by article and with the help of experts we will try to figure it out together.

I hope I haven’t confused your ideas too much. See you at the next article.

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