It’s no longer just a hashtag.
Well, we finally got to the point that many of you feared: the EU gave the approval and the UK is leaving on January 31st.
Why “finally”? Well, let’s recapitulate the story of Brexit a bit to see what’s going on.
A long, long time ago, in June 2016, 51.6% of the British electorate voted “yes” to the Referendum that would set the UK free from the European Union. This triggered a seemingly never-ending thread of comes and goes that looks to be getting to the end on January 31st.
Not that it’s a happy ending for many, but at least it looks like there’s no more beating about the bush and the transition period will start. We’ll get back to it later on; first, let’s revise what brought us here in the first place.
After the decision of leaving was made, the UK was supposed to say goodbye on March 29, 2019. Easy peasy. But the farewell had to be delayed because both parties had to actually work out the details.
How was the UK leaving the EU? What were the conditions? Ah, well, that’s dealt with on the Withdrawal Agreement, which basically states…
…how much cash the UK has to pay to leave,
…what will happen to Europeans living in the United Kingdom and vice-versa,
…how to make sure there won’t be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland when it transforms into the frontier between UK and EU,
…what the relationship would be like after the “divorce,” i.e. the Transition Period.
The Members of Parliament (MP) voted against this Withdrawal Agreement three times, the last being on the very March 29, 2019, after Theresa May (then-Prime Minister) had been discussing legal issues with the EU.
What they basically voted against and what worried them the most was that the UK wasn’t getting any control back with that agreement.
Not only that but also the border between Northern Ireland (UK) and the Republic of Ireland (EU) did ruffle some feathers among the MPs. It’s not just a simple line, FYI.
For many MPs, this would bring about some problems because a hard border would just make the whole matter more complicated for the two countries regarding customs, immigration checks, trade, medical cooperation, to name just a few.
May tried to tone things down by adding the magical touch of the backstop. What on Earth does that mean, you ask? Nothing special, just a little add-on that keeps the border open and easy to trade through.
Even though it sounds nice in theory, in practice it’d mean that Northern Ireland (and Northern Ireland only) would follow some of the EU rules on certain things. The trick is that the UK couldn’t get out of this without the EU’s approval, so what’s the point in the whole Brexit project after all?
In the end, May had to leave office (another exit) and Boris Johnson took over and he’s been trying to make agreements, taking the backstop out of the picture. If the UK left without an agreement, a “no-deal Brexit, it’d be kind of bumpy since there’d be no transition period and they would just leave— as simple(?) as that. It’d translate into lots of expenses on higher food prices and customs checks at the borders.
On January 29, 2020, MPs ratified the new Withdrawal Agreement in Brussels and now the UK will definitely leave the EU on Friday, January 31, 2020, 23 hs GMT.
Everybody who spoke after the EU MPs made the decision saw the bright side of the issue. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen even said this was only a first step in the new relationship between both parties.
MPs on both sides of the river showed their presence on the voting process; some with songs and some with “always united” scarves. Many of them even sang “Auld Lang Syne” right after. Quite ironic, huh?
So, it finally happened. As of February 1st, they will still abide by the laws of the EU but will be “erased” from the political institutions. There’ll be, for sure, many implications regarding business and civil issues, if not more, so we’ll have to follow up closely and whether we like it or not, it’s on!