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Kamis, 31 Desember 2020

Brexit will be made official as the UK leaves the European Union single market and customs union today. But what happens next? - ABC News

Today's the day the United Kingdom leaves the rest of the European Union.

When the clock ticks over into January 1 in the UK, it will leave the single market and customs union.

It has been hailed as a "new beginning" for Britain in its relationship with European neighbours.

After years of negotiations, missed deadlines and extensions, negotiators struck a trade deal last week with the European Union on Brexit at the 11th hour.

Both sides claim the agreement — which is more than 1,200 pages long — protects their goals.

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But how will things change now that the UK has split from the EU? Here's what we know.

A quick catch-up on Brexit

The UK officially began the process of leaving the EU on March 29, 2017 after a close majority voted in favour of quitting the bloc in a referendum.

It allowed for a two-year period of Brexit negotiations to work out a withdrawal agreement.

But as they stalled, the March 2019 withdrawal date was pushed back to October 31, and then again to January 31, 2020, when the UK finally left the EU at 11:00pm.

A smiling woman holds a baby in front of the Union Flag.
Supporters celebrated earlier this year on Brexit day in London.(Reuters: Simon Dawson)

Since then, it has still been operating on EU rules during what was called an 11-month transition period, which was meant to be used for both sides to work out a deal for how the UK and the bloc will trade, live and work with one another in the future.

But the coronavirus pandemic, among other factors, had delayed the process until just last week when a deal was finally struck.

EU officials and diplomats told Reuters that the talks for that agreement were an exhausting exercise of bluff and brinksmanship.

Why was everyone talking about a deal?

A man with blonde hair wearing a dark suit stands at a podium with British flags behind him.
The UK's relationship with the European Union will change from January 1.(AP via Paul Grover/Pool)

Now that a deal is in place, a framework for future relations between the UK and EU has been set up, including on transport, energy, security information sharing and environmental standards.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it gives Britain control over its money, borders, laws and fishing grounds, while the EU says it protects its single market and contains safeguards to ensure the UK does not unfairly undercut the bloc's standards.

What will change on January 1?

A deal has prevented tariffs on goods — roughly half of the $900 billion of annual EU-UK commerce — and duties being imposed, which could have cost both sides in trade and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Without a deal, car manufacturers for example would have been hit with a 10 per cent charge from January 1.

But from today, the free movement of people between the UK and the EU will end.

Instead, UK citizens will need a visa for stays of longer than 90 days in the EU in a 180-day period, and the same will apply for EU citizens in the UK.

(This deal is on top of the formal Withdrawal Agreement reached last year, which ruled out tough controls on the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.)

With the UK leaving the single market, which aims to make trade as simple as possible regardless of where a business is located within the European Economic Area, there may also be some hiccups for importers and exporters.

British firms will have to file forms and customs declarations for the first time in years, which could cause delays. There will be different rules on product labelling as well as checks on agricultural products.

And even though there are no extra charges on goods or limits on the amount that can be traded between countries from January 1, the BBC reports, there will be extra checks at borders, such as safety checks and customs declarations.

So there could still be chaos at the port if exporters don't have the right paperwork to cross the Channel.

A line of trucks stopped on a road with signs above.
Trucks queued to enter the Channel tunnel in Calais as Britain prepares to leave the European Union's orbit.(Reuters: Pascal Rossignol)

There will also no longer be mutual recognition of professional qualifications, including UK doctors and engineers, which means those working in other countries will have to apply for recognition in the country they wish to practise in when their visa expires.

The UK will leave the EU's Common Fisheries Policy today, but under the Brexit deal the current rules will remain largely in place during a 5-and-a-half-year transition period.

After that period, there will be annual consultations to establish the level and conditions for EU access to British waters.

The UK will also no longer be bound by judgements made by the European Court of Justice.

Supporters of Brexit though will be happy that from this year the UK will be able to set its own rules and do things its own way on social, environmental and state aid matters.

But the agreement has set some parameters around this, allowing the possibility for arbitration or trade countermeasures in case either side feels they are being treated unfairly.

If those measures are overused, for example, either side can ask to reopen the trade aspects of the treaty.

There are a number of other changes taking place from today but these are some of the main ones.

Does this mean the UK and EU are officially divorced?

Yes but some processes for how the UK and EU will operate after today remain unclear.

For example, the deal with the EU does not include an outline for the services sector, which accounts for around 80 per cent of the British economy.

It is understood that access for the UK's financial sector to the EU's single market will still end on January 1.

a man holding the Union Jack and EU flag next to a neon sign reading Stronger Together outside a building
European Union nations unanimously approved the post-Brexit trade deal with the United Kingdom.(AP: Matt Dunham)

Yet all we know is that the two sides have committed "to establish a favourable climate for the development of trade and investment between them".

Why did negotiations come so close to the deadline?

Negotiating a free trade deal between the world's largest trading bloc (the EU) and the world's sixth-largest economy (the UK) was always going to take time, and many expected it not to be achieved in the relatively short 11-month transition period.

In the end, those negotiations did come all the way down to the wire, with both sides haggling over the EU's right to fish in British waters on Christmas Eve just before the deal was announced.

Another reason it took so long is that Brexit is still pretty divisive within the UK and among its members of parliament.

A close up shot of a union jack flag in front of Big Ben
Brexit became official at 11:00pm London time on January 31st, 2020.(Reuters: Toby Melville)

Supporters see the move as the country regaining full control over its destiny. But opponents say it is a big setback for peace and prosperity in Europe.

Efforts to find a compromise for both sides have usually failed. Instead, it has cost two prime ministers their jobs.

David Cameron was the first to go, having resigned after the referendum result was declared in 2016.

His successor Theresa May spent years working on an agreement and tried to push a withdrawal deal through parliament, with several versions and tweaks made in an effort to get MPs to agree to it.

She stepped down before a deal could be passed, saying she had done her best to deliver Brexit.

So what happens now?

Brexit is pretty much done. The deal will come into effect from today, but it will take longer before it's officially signed off on by both sides.

A line of trucks stopped at a check point on a road with a building in the background.
Lorries queued last week to enter the Port of Dover over fears over a new coronavirus variant spreading in south-east England.(AP via Gareth Fuller/PA)

On Monday (local time), EU ambassadors unanimously approved its provisional application. But the European Parliament's consent — expected in the first weeks of January — is still needed to permanently apply it.

Once that's done, both sides will be bound by their 2020 divorce settlement and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement — although some negotiations will continue.

ABC/wires

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2020-12-31 19:01:00Z
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