The United Kingdom leaves the European Union’s circulation on Thursday and turns its back on a stormy 48 – year contact with the European project for an uncertain Brexit future that will shape the wealth of its people for generations to come.
Brexit mainly takes place during the strike at midnight in Brussels, or 2300 London time (GMT), when Britain leaves a de facto membership that continued after formally leaving the bloc on 31 January.
For five years, the frantic gyrations of the Brexit crisis have dominated European issues, haunted the sterling markets and wound up the UK’s reputation as a sure pillar of Western economic and political stability.
Cast by supporters as the dawn of a newly independent “global Britain”, Brexit has weakened the bonds that bind England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland into a $ 3 trillion economy.
“Brexit is not an end but a beginning,” Johnson, 56, told parliament just hours before approving his EU trade agreement. Grinning, he later replied to reporters that he had read the deal he had signed.
Johnson said there would be no regulatory bonfire to build a “Dickensian Britain barracks” and assured Europe that the United Kingdom would remain “the essential European civilization”.
But the face of the Brexit campaign has been short on details of what he wants to build with Britain’s new “independence” – or how to do it while borrowing record amounts to pay for the COVID-19 crisis.
In June 23, 2016, the referendum supported 17.4 million voters, or 52 percent, Brexit while 16.1 million, or 48 percent, supported staying in the bloc. Few have changed since then. England and Wales voted, but Scotland and Northern Ireland voted.
The referendum showed that the United Kingdom divided much more than the European Union and has conducted soul-searching on everything from secession and immigration to capitalism, empire and modern Britishness.
Leaving was once the long-held dream of a motley crew of “Eurosceptics” on the fringes of British politics: Britain went as “Europe’s sick man” in 1973 and two decades ago British leaders argued over joining the euro.
“The UK had basically lost its mojo and we entered the then common market, really for self-protection reasons – we thought it was the best future for us, we could not see another way forward,” Johnson said.
Fast forward 48 years.
“We see a global future for ourselves,” said Johnson, who won power in 2019 and against odds reached a Brexit divorce deal and a trade deal, as well as the largest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher, in the 2019 election.
For supporters, Brexit is an escape from a doomed German-dominated project that had fallen far behind the world’s leading powers in the United States and China.
Opponents say Brexit is a folly that will weaken the West, torpedo what is left of Britain’s global influence, undermine its economy and ultimately leave it a smaller cosmopolitan set of islands.
After the United Kingdom left the internal market or customs union on Thursday, it is almost certain that some border disturbances will occur. More bureaucracy means higher costs for those who import and export goods across the EU-UK border.
Port of Dover expects volumes to fall in early January. The most worrying period, it says, will be in the middle to the end of January when volumes increase again.
Going away from almost half a century of membership means a change to everything from pet passports and driving license rules for the British in Europe to computer rules.
Support for Scottish independence has increased, partly due to Brexit and partly due to COVID-19, which threatens the 300-year-old political union between England and Scotland.
Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon has said a referendum on independence should take place during the earlier part of Parliament’s next term, which begins next year.
After passing a trade evening on Christmas Eve to make up for the worst of the disruption, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen quoted both William Shakespeare and TS Eliot.
“Divorce is such a sweet sadness,” she said. “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”