With less than a year left until “Brexit Day”, uncertainty still reigns

Anca Alexe 05/04/2018 | 13:15

As of now, the only big decision that has been made on Brexit has been on the duration of the transitional phase – from March 29, 2019 (the official “Brexit day”, two years after the UK triggered Article 50) to December 31, 2020.

The UK Parliament is expected to take a crucial vote on the final Brexit deal in October, but the vote may be delayed until January 2019, which could make the EU extend the transition period as well.

The transition period will include the following aspects, according to the BBC: EU citizens arriving in the UK in this period will have the same rights as those who arrived before Brexit, and so will UK expats in EU member states; the UK will be able to negotiate and sign its own trade deals; it will still be part of existing EU trade deals with other countries; the UK will remain part of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy but not have a direct say in its rules; Northern Ireland will effectively stay in parts of the single market and the customs union in the absence of other solutions to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

The Ireland border issue remains one of the most difficult – in theory, if the UK, which includes Northern Ireland, exits the EU, a border will exist between it and the closest EU member states – Ireland. However, a free border has always existed between Ireland and the UK, and the UK is determined to keep it that way – but where will the new EU external border be installed? The British government has said it would soon come up with a reasonable proposal.

According to Bloomberg, the UK will aim to hire 1,000 new customs and immigration staff in order to ensure the security of the country’s border after Brexit. About GBP 150 million will be spent on strengthening the border.

Theresa May toured the UK at the end of March and promised that the UK will be “strong and united, but also different”, and that no longer sending “vast amounts of money” to the EU will leave the UK with more money available to invest in priority areas such as the National Health Service.

Trade: still a mystery

Although the March summit led to the agreement on the transitional period, the UK and EU are very far from reaching a deal on trade, as well as other significant issues.

Donald Tusk, President of the EU Council, said at the beginning of March that a free trade agreement is “the only remaining possible model” after the UK leaves the Single Market, the customs union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. He wants to aim for a trade agreement “covering all sectors and with zero tariffs on goods”. However, he also showed his frustration at the fact that this will be the first free trade agreement in history that loosens economic ties instead of strengthening them.

Tusk also warned that “the EU cannot agree to grant the UK the rights of Norway with the obligations of Canada”, suggesting that there needs to be a proper balance between rights and obligations, and that the UK should not expect preferential treatment.

Brexit for the British

British citizens don’t yet know exactly what rights they will have in the European Union’s Member States after the UK leaves the Union. However, Amnesty International has warned that the EU Withdrawal Bill “is set to substantially reduce rights in the UK” and may also harm British citizens living abroad. Principles such as the right to fair trials, free speech and decent labour standards may be under threat after the UK is no longer under EU jurisdiction, according to the organisation.

Brits will also lose some less crucial conveniences: for example, they won’t be able to access UK Netflix or other streaming services when they will travel to EU countries, which as of April 1 are all offering the same content on web streaming services thanks to new EU portability rules. Before April, web streaming platforms could provide different content for users in separate EU countries. After Brexit, UK streaming services will be subject to international guidelines set by bodies including the World Intellectual Property Organisation, according to the Evening Standard.


Photo: dreamstime.com

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