Explained: Brexit here, what changes and what doesn’t

Explained: European Parliament approves Brexit deal; what next?

MEP's sing and hold hands after a vote on the UK's withdrawal from the EU, the final legislative step in the Brexit proceedings, during the plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP)

By Friday night GMT (early Saturday morning in India), Britain will have exited the European Union after 47 years of membership. In a journey that began in January 2013 with the announcement of a referendum in which the British public would vote where or not the country would go for Brexit (they eventually voted in favour), the formal exit now is only the first step of another long journey ahead.

As of now, an 11-month transition period has kicked in. This ends on December 31, 2020. A look at what changes during the period, and what remains the same:

Out of EU politics

With Brexit Day on Thursday, the United Kingdom leaves all of the European Union’s political institutions. The UK had 73 Members of European Parliament, and they automatically lose their seats. British ministers will no longer attend regular EU meetings, and the Prime Minister will no longer be an automatic attendee at EU Council summits, although he can still join if he is given a special invitation.


EU rules apply

During the transition period, the UK will continue to obey EU rules and make payments to the EU. If it is involved in a legal dispute with an EU member country, the European Court of Justice will continue to have the final say.

New trade equations

Out of the EU, Britain will have to build new trade relationships with countries outside the Union. While it was still in EU, Britain was not allowed to hold formal trade negotiations with countries such as the US and Australia. Now that it will have that freedom, Brexit supporters see that as a positive —Britain setting its own trade policy.

There will also likely be priority given to a trade deal between the EU and its ex-member. Britain will want to lose as little as possible of the privileges it enjoyed as a member; it wouldn’t want to pay extra charges on goods and would want to continue without trade barriers after the transition ends. As of now, these trade rules have not changed.

At the stroke of Brexit, Britain steps, guardedly, into a new dawn

A countdown to Brexit timer and the colors of the British Union flag illuminate the exterior of 10 Downing street, the residence of the British Prime Minister, in London, England, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Passports, coins

The British passport has a burgundy design, introduced three decades ago. Now, the country will return to the blue passports it used to issue before adopting the EU design. This change was announced in 2017, by then Immigration Minister, Brandon Lewis. The blue-and-gold design was first used in 1921. This switch will be phased over a number of months; all new passports will be issued in blue by the middle of the year.

Entering circulation on Friday are about three million commemorative Brexit coins, of denomination of 50 pence. They bear the date “31 January” and the inscription “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”.

No Brexit department

The Department for Exiting the European Union was set up by then PM Theresa May in 2016. It disbands on Friday.

No change

Travel: Flights, boats and trains will operate as they did while Britain was in the EU. Driving licences will continue to be accepted, as long as they are valid.

EHIC: European Health Insurance Card will remain valid inside Britain, and in the EU countries, during the transition.
Freedom of movement: During the transition, UK nationals will continue to be be able to live and work in European Union countries. EU nationals who want to live and work in the UK, too, can do so.

EU Budget: The UK will for now continue to contribute to the EU Budget. Existing schemes that are funded by EU grants will continue to be funded.

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