Brexit is the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU). During the Brexit process, political leaders, thinktanks, scholars, business representatives and interested citizens in the UK and on the European continent have been  critically following the campaign for the referendum. On the European mainland various media has pointed out that leaving the European Union would be terrible for the (economic) stability and future of the EU. The actual date of exit (withdrawal deadline) has been changed three times: from 29 March 2019 into 12 april 2019 into 31 October 2019 into 31 January 2020. After 47 years, the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union ended. Prime minister Boris Johnson 'got the Brexit done' in the end.

Facing pressure from Eurosceptic groups, David Cameron's pro-Europe government held a referendum in 2016 on whether to leave the EU: 51.9% voted in favour of leaving the EU and 48.1 % voted in favour of remaining in the EU. (EU referendum: the result in maps and charts, 24 June 2016, BBC News). The outcome resulted in Cameron's resignation.

In European law a provision is codified for Member States to withdraw from the European Union: Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union. Paragraph 1 of art. 50 clearly states that the decision of withdrawal from the European Union is a sole prerogative of the Member State. It therefore, needs to be in accordance with its own constitutional requirements. After a decision is made by the British government it need to send a notification to the European Council. The leaders of the 27 other Member States of the European Union convene to discuss the notification and to draft a 'Withdrawal Treaty'. This particular treaty is concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining consent of the European Parliament. It is confirmed by the 27 remaining heads of state of the European Union.

May's deal: the Withdrawal Agreement (18 November 2018)

Theresa May's deal aimed, broadly, to allow the UK to formally leave immediately, while abiding by EU rules for a further 21-month "implementation period". This should have given the UK and EU breathing space while they hammer out the details of a future relationship. However, on 29 March 2019 -- the first set exit date of Brexit -- the British Parliament (House of Commons) showed many 'NO' 's to the Withdrawal Agreement, even to options discussed and proposed within the Parliament. After another vote against the Withdrawal Agreement, Theresa May resigned as Prime Minister.

Johnson's revised Brexit deal (17 October 2019)

The new protocol replaces the controversial Irish backstop plan in Theresa May's deal. Much of the rest of that deal will remain: The whole of the UK will leave the EU customs union. This means the UK will be able to strike trade deals with other countries in the future. There will be a legal customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (which stays in the EU). But in practice the customs border will be between Great Britain and the island of Ireland, with goods being checked at "points of entry" in Northern Ireland. Where something is "at risk" of being transported into the Republic of Ireland (which is part of the EU customs union), duty tax will be paid.

The UK general election on 12 December 2019 turned out to be a historic victory for the Conservative Party. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the results gave his government “a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done.” Boris Johnson wanted the UK to leave the European Union (EU) with the revised deal he agreed.

In 2020, planned negotiating rounds on the UK’s future relationship with the EU had been abandoned at first as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with Boris Johnson’s government still to table a comprehensive legal text for both sides to work on.

Following the British exit on 31 January 2020 the UK entered a Transition Period. Trade, travel and freedom of movement remain largely unchanged during this period. The transition period ended on 31 December 2020. During the transition period, David Frost (UK) and Michel Barnier (EU) continued to negotiate a permanent trade agreement. On 24 December 2020 both parties announced that a deal had been reached:

United Kingdom and European Union agree Brexit trade deal (24 December 2020)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johson has emphasized on Britain to take back control. In a speech to parliament ahead of the vote on 30 December 2020, Boris Johnson will hail the deal sealed on Christmas Eve, arguing that it represents “how Britain can be at once European and sovereign”, as well as praising negotiators for securing it at “astonishing speed” in the “teeth of a pandemic”.

The European Union's most important negotiating strategy is to create a 'level playing field' in order to control damage (unfair competition) to the EU internal market and EU-citizens as much as possible.

A few key points of the deal:

  • No taxes on goods (tariffs) or limits on the amount that can be traded (quotas) between the UK and the EU from 1 January 2021.
  • New checks will be introduced at borders, such as (health) safety checks and customs declarations.
  • Both sides have agreed that 25% of EU boats' fishing rights in UK waters will be transferred to the UK fishing fleet, over a period of five-and-a-half years. Starting from 30 June 2026, the UK and the EU will hold regular talks on fishing access and British access to EU gas and electricity.
  • UK nationals will need a visa for stays of longer than 90 days in the EU in a 180-day period.
  • UK will no longer participate in the Erasmus exchange programme, an EU scheme that helps students study in other countries.
  • The UK will not be a member of the EU's law enforcement agency, Europol, but it will have a presence at its headquarters.
  • The UK is no longer obliged to comply with EU standards of data protection, but data will continue to be exchanged in the same way for at least four months as long as the UK doesn't change its data protection rules.
  • There will be no role in the UK for the European Court of Justice (ECJ); disputes that cannot be resolved between the UK and the EU will be referred to an independent tribunal instead.

Although a 'No deal' would have been disastrous for both parties, the damage for the UK would have been more painful because the UK is a bigger netto-exporter to the EU than the EU is to the UK. No need to say that even this deal is still a loss to both: loss of economic development, loss of freedom to travel, loss of (barrier-)free trade.



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