So, after what feels like a lifetime, we’re finally here. Whether Big Ben bonged or not, the UK has just left the European Union at 11PM this evening.
Whilst some will no doubt be raising a glass of champagne, and others drowning their sorrows, most will shrug with indifference, because what does it all actually mean anyway?
Well, here’s an attempt to explain what is happening, what will happen, and how Brexit will actually affect the ordinary UK-dwelling person.
First off, there’s no reason to panic yet, because – aside from a few very small things – nothing will drastically change at all.
This date is a symbolic date and marks the movement between the UK’s membership of the EU to a transition period in which the details of any future arrangement between the UK Government and the 27 other member states will be thrashed out.
The transition period lasts for 11 months, meaning that we’ve got until December 31 2020 to actually figure out how we’ll interact with our neighbours going forward.
Some small things that will change include the UK contingent at the European Parliament losing their seats, Boris Johnson no longer attending summits, and – joy of joys – all new British passports will be blue instead of maroon, and no longer feature the words ‘European Union’ on them.
Incidentally, travelling on those aforementioned blue passports won’t be affected.
Trains, flights, and boats to the EU will still run, and you can still join the ‘EU arrivals only’ queue when you get there. Until December, at least…
The same goes for your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), driving license, and pet passports. So long as they’re valid, they’ll continue to be accepted.
Remember the £350m to the EU that was going to be headed to the NHS? Well, don’t count on that just yet, either. The UK will continue to pay budget contributions to the EU during the transition period.
If you’re an EU national living in the UK, you’re in no immediate danger. Freedom of movement will continue until the end of this year, too. That applies to both UK nationals wanting to work out in the other 27 countries, and EU nationals who live here.
In short, apart from a change in passport colour, and a new 50p coin – modelled so expertly by Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid – very little will change, and when the sun comes up tomorrow, things will be largely the same as they are now.
In many ways, this is just the beginning of the meaningful negotiations, and – sadly – the real boring minutiae of the final agreement, and what the relationship will look like eventually, is just beginning to be considered.
Settle in, we’ve got another 11 months of this, that’s for sure.