UK Prepares to Leave EU

Leslie Chen, Staff Writer

This week, the United Kingdom (UK) announced an official date for its withdrawal from the European Union (EU), better known as Brexit. UK officials have recently passed legislation to make the current Brexit deal official law, paving the way for the country’s exit from the EU on Jan. 31.

The date was set after months and months of drama that characterized the exit. The UK announced its interest in leaving the EU as early as 2016. A public vote was held in June of that year, where 74 million people opted for Brexit (52% of the final vote). Although much of the groundwork was already set by the UK’s previous Prime Minister, Theresa May, the process was quickened with current Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s election victory back in December 2019. Opposition lawmakers were unable to give much resistance to the government’s plans, so Brexit was quickly finalized and approved by Parliament.

The Brexit deal was officially sent for approval to the European Parliament on Jan. 29. With a vote of 621 in favor and 49 in opposition, the UK is set to end its 40-year EU membership and instead, form a new version of its relationship with the union. Prime Minister Johnson described it as “not an end but a beginning… a moment of real national renewal and change.” 

After Jan. 31, the UK will be officially out of the EU, but not much will change. The UK will continue to follow a majority of EU rules during a transition period that will end on Dec. 31. During this period, the UK and EU must finalize the details of their relationship including matters like trade, security cooperation, financial services, and more. 

Prime Minister Johnson has promised that he would not extend the period further than 2020, which would give the two parties less than eleven months to come to a negotiation. Although it’s not impossible to achieve, experts warn that it will be difficult. If both sides cannot come to an agreement by then, tariffs and food shortages can be expected.

Despite the lack of official negotiation, the UK insists that it is headed to a brighter future. Celebrations are already planned; Brexiteers plan to gather in Parliament Square, where a clock counting down to the moment the UK leaves the EU will be projected. In a public address, Prime Minister Johnson called Brexit “the dawn of a new era… this is the moment when we begin to unite.” 


Photo courtesy of FORBES.COM