As we all aware, the UK decided to leave the EU following a referendum in June 2016 with 17.4 million in favour of the motion. Brexit being the buzzword of the last few years, the question on everyone’s lips is what happens next?
Following the formal departure on January 31st, 2020, months of negotiations for what the next steps will be were sparked. While our departure has been agreed, both the EU and the UK need to decide on the future relationships, creating the transition period. In the next 11 months the UK will still follow the rules and regulations of the EU until December 31st, 2020 when the UK will have officially cut ties from the European Union.
What needs to be agreed?
The transition period is meant to give both sides some breathing space while a new free trade agreement is negotiated. This is needed because the UK will leave the single market and customs union at the end of the transition. A free trade agreement allows goods to move around the EU without checks or extra charges. If a new one cannot be agreed in time, then the UK faces the prospect of having to trade with no deal in place. That would mean taxes on UK goods travelling to the EU and other trade barriers.
Aside from trade, many other aspects of the future UK-EU relationship will also need to be decided. For example: law enforcement, data sharing and security, aviation standards and safety, access to fishing waters, supplies of electricity and gas, and licensing and regulation of medicines. Each of these areas will be dissected and discussed at length to determine how they will change and adapt to the new changes being made.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson insists the transition period will not be extended, but the European Commission has warned that the timetable will be extremely challenging. Discussions of the future of the UK will be reliant on government parties reaching a consensus on how we will go about the transition period.
Why did Brexit take so long?
Brexit was originally meant to happen on 29 March 2019, but the deadline was delayed twice after MPs rejected the deal negotiated by Mrs May, the prime minister at the time. Many Conservative MPs and the DUP (the government’s then ally in Parliament) were unhappy with the backstop – arguing that the UK could remain trapped in the arrangement for years with no way out. After MPs voted down the deal for a third time, Mrs May resigned. Mr Johnson needed a Brexit extension of his own after MPs failed to get the revised deal passed into law. This led to the new deadline of 31 January 2020. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have a majority of 80 seats with Parliament still in deadlock; Mr Johnson called an early general election, to which MPs agreed. The election, which happened on 12 December 2019, resulted in a Conservative majority of 80. With a sizable majority in Parliament, it proved straightforward to pass the Brexit legislation.