After three and a half years, three prime ministers and seemingly endless votes in Parliament since the 2016 Brexit referendum, UK will finally become the first country to leave the European Union at 11:01 p.m, today
The U.K. will leave the EU on Friday evening after 47 years of membership, marking one of the biggest political and economic shifts in modern Europe.
The U.K. has set a deadline of Dec. 31st 2020 in which a deal must be reached, otherwise it could confront a “no deal” scenario and would have to revert to the World Trade Organisation trading rules, putting up trade barriers with the EU in a move likely to damage both the U.K. and EU economies.
BREXIT: What’s next?
When the U.K. leaves the EU on Friday, it will remain a member of the single market and customs union but only during a “transition period” until the end of 2020.
During this time the U.K. will no longer be represented in the EU institutions, agencies, bodies and offices but EU law will still apply in the country until the end of the transition period.
During that time, the U.K. and EU will try to strike a trade deal although the short time frame is seen as ambitious and Brussels has warned London that the trading relationship will not be the same post-Brexit.
What will happen during the transition?
Businesses will still operate as normal, people travelling to Europe will not be affected during the transition period, and EU citizens will still be able to move freely around the bloc.
What comes next after the transition?
The end of phase one marks the start of phase two. And if the past three and a half years have been anything to go by, phase two is going to be far more of a nightmare than phase one.
The Brexit transition period is due to end on December 31 of this year. That means the UK has to negotiate its future relationship with Europe in just 11 months. Failure to reach an agreement would mean the hardest Brexit possible, causing economic damage for both sides and possibly the wider world. This is a scenario that both sides are eager to avoid — even as they continue to engage in their game of high-stakes brinkmanship.
Formal negotiations will begin on March 3. In the meantime, both sides will outline their priorities and draw their red lines. If history tells us anything, the UK will be more likely to back down than Brussels.
What happens if there’s no deal by the end of 2020?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the EU could decide in June to extend the transition period, giving them more time and pushing negotiations to as late as 2022. But assuming that’s not happening, and the EU and the UK don’t have a trade agreement (or other deals) in place, one could perhaps call this a “no-deal” scenario.