Topline: Friday marks Britain’s last day as a full member of the European Union, but while Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the “dawn of a new era” not much will change until London and Brussels can hash out a deal.
- Britons will no longer be EU citizens from 11 p.m. local time but will continue to enjoy many of the same rights, and trade will continue to flow between the U.K. and the EU.
- Johnson will make a televised speech to mark Brexit day at 10 p.m. London time.
- New 50-pence coins commemorating Brexit will enter circulation. They were likely made from the remains of one million coins marking the previous October 31, 2019, Brexit date that were melted down after the U.K. missed the prior deadline in October.
Over the next 11 months:
- Britain will hold talks with potential trading partners to strike new deals with the United States, Commonwealth nations like Australia and Canada, and the EU, which is the U.K.’s biggest trading partner.
- Europe will also have to contend with a new normal, and France could lead those efforts. With the U.K.’s departure, the EU loses one of its biggest military powers and 15% of its economy. Britain’s net contribution to the EU in 2018 was £11 billion.
- Some 3 million EU citizens are living in the U.K., while 1.2 million British citizens are spread out across the bloc—and some are worried about how their pensions and healthcare will be affected by Brexit.
- Businesses in the U.K. must brace themselves for the transition period and beyond and follow new government guidelines to ensure they can continue to trade with the EU.
- Passports with blue covers will also be phased in to replace the EU’s burgundy travel documents.
- Many questions remain unanswered, including Britain’s policy on immigration and security arrangements with the EU.
What to watch for: Friday is significant, but it is symbolic more than anything. Britain now enters an 11-month transition period, where it will still abide by EU rules, laws and regulations, and continue its payments into the world’s largest trading bloc. But it won’t have any representation as British lawmakers represented in the European parliament said their official goodbyes this week. Britain will no longer have a U.K. commissioner in Brussels, or judges in the European Court of Justice. December 31, 2020, is the date from which the U.K. will really be left to its own devices, leave the customs union and single market.
Crucial quote: Johnson will say in a speech on Friday: “Our job as the government—my job—is to bring this country together and take us forward. . . . And the most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning. . . . It is a moment of real national renewal and change.”
Key background: After 47 years as a key part of the EU, Britain is the first country to leave after voting 52% to 48% in favor of exit in 2016. Campaigners who led the charge for Britain to leave the EU are hailing the arrival of Brexit day. “Yes, we did it,” reads the front page of right-wing newspaper the Daily Express. But the pro-remain The Guardian brands Britain as “small island” making a big gamble on its front page. Whichever way you slice it, the Brexit process has been arduous and divisive.
Ex-prime minister David Cameron announced he was in favor of a referendum in 2013, with the intervening years marked by rounds of campaigning, negotiations, failed talks, three prime ministers, two general elections, two blown leave deadlines and a starkly divided—and exasperated—Britain. Analysts, experts and lawmakers are deeply split on what the economic impact of Brexit will be, and it largely hangs on the trade deals that Johnson can strike.