The Brexit deal and what it means for you

By Caoimhe HAYES, ALI S4

Parting is such sweet sorrow

On the 23rd of June 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Thus began what was to become the Brexit saga. Despairing Europeans and Remainers (the 48% ‘minority’ who voted to remain in the EU) watched on as UK politicians stumbled through the legal processes, struggling to achieve any sort of consensus in their domestic political sphere. The atmosphere – as is perhaps to be expected with such tight margins – was rife with division and contention.

However, the people had voted; ‘Brexit means Brexit’ – a mantra of former PM Teresa May – and so it did. Following the triggering of Article 50 in March 2017, a 2-year negotiation period was put in place, to allow time for the UK to prepare for its departure, and the EU – UK negotiators to agree on a deal vis-à-vis the future relationship between the two. Unsurprisingly, this was quite the task and not a problem to be resolved quickly or with any ease.

From the ec.europa.eu website: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/eu-uk_relations-from_the_uk_referendum_to_a_new_trade_and_cooperation_agreement-timeline.pdf

Whilst the UK officially left the EU on the 31stof January 2020, the transition period ran until the 31stof December (meaning it was acknowledged that the UK had left, but it was treated as a sort of de facto member, simply without representation at EU summits) in the hope of securing a deal. Unfortunately, by late 2020, the deal was looking no nearer to completion. Difficulties remained surrounding certain aspects of the deal – fisheries, governance and the so-called level playing field –while neither side looked ready to compromise. 

As deadlines loomed and were missed, repeatedly, the respective leaders of the EU and the UK got personally involved in the negotiations. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British PM Boris Johnson had several phone calls in December. Finally, on the 24thof December, a deal was agreed. It is, in its entirety, 1,246 pages long and available in all 24 official European languages. It has been ratified on the UK side and has been provisionally implemented by the European Union, awaiting proper ratification from the full European Parliament.

In a typically symbolic gesture, Big Ben, despite being currently under renovation, ‘bonged’ at 11pm GMT to mark the occasion.  

Image by rawpixel.com

So, it’s all just symbolism?

Unfortunately not. 

‘What is Brexit to me?’ you may ask. Does it even make any difference?

The answer is: Yes, it makes a big difference. Unfortunately, this isn’t only in lofty ideals; it’s not merely a degradation of critical EU-UK ties and bonds: Brexit manifests itself in everyday things which, as an ESA student and EU citizen, you will experience.

The 4 freedoms: People, goods, services and capital

These are the freedoms every one of us, as EU citizens, are so accustomed to. These are fundamental to how the European Union functions. 

The UK: a ‘third country’

Freedom of movement of people between the UK and the EU ended on the 31st of December, so EU citizens no longer have the automatic right to work or study in the United Kingdom, as you do in the rest of the EU. This does not apply if you were a resident before that date or are an Irish citizen. If you wish to stay for longer than 6 months, you will need to apply for a visa. If you are visiting for tourism purposes, or anything not to do with work, for less than 6 months, you still only need your passport. 

Freedom of movement of goods, services and capital are all limited by the new need for customs regulations, new required paperwork, and the fact that the UK is now a third country from the perspective of the EU. It no longer has full access to the single market (limited access, subject to conforming with EU rules) and will incur extra costs if it wishes to export items into the EU’s single market. This and the extra red tape mean that ordering and receiving goods from the UK will become more difficult and expensive than before. This will be evident to you when ordering anything from a UK website, or when receiving goods with a UK provenance, etc. 

UK professionals are no longer entitled to work in other EU member states and have to register with each individualmember state if they wish to do so. There would be no guarantee of being recognised. This also applies for EU citizens in the UK.  

Travel UK airlines carrying passengers / cargo are no longer automatically guaranteed the right to make intermediary stops in the EU, and vice versa for EU airlines in the UK.

Credit: rawpixel.com

Erasmus+

The UK has decided to no longer take part in Erasmus+. This is an EU-wide scheme which provides grants to students to support education, training, youth and sport. It furnishes opportunities for students to study or gain work experience in a different European country while completing a degree. Hundreds of thousands of European students avail of this every year. 

Despite claiming the Erasmus scheme would be unaffected by Brexitjust months earlier, Boris Johnson subsequently rejected an offer to remain part of Erasmus+ because it was ‘too expensive’. This means that EU students will no longer be able to travel to UK universities as part of Erasmus and vice versa.

‘Lies and false promises’

 “Brexit was the child of the European malaise and of many lies and false promises”, to quote French President Emmanuel Macron. What I have highlighted above is the tragic, tangible result of them. 

Sources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4uKmj3HOUU(EC press conference on the 24th : President VDL, Michel Barnier) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9TyveDbMZc (Boris Johnson deal-day press conference. Favourite line: “I can assure great fish fanatics in this country (…) we will [now] be able to catch and eat quite prodigious quantities of extra fish” ? https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/eu-uk-after-referendum/ https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-sources/eu-uk-so-far-fail-to-bridge-gaps-to-secure-trade-deal-idUKKBN27J1I9 https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32810887 https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv%3AOJ.L_.2020.444.01.0014.01.ENG https://www.government.nl/topics/brexit/brexit-where-do-we-stand https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_2531 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55465081 https://www.gov.uk/guidance/visiting-the-uk-as-an-eu-eea-or-swiss-citizen https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/dec/24/uk-eu-agree-brexit-trade-deal-agreement https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=acf0136b-9646-47ea-8be2-403bc97c6b0a https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/about_en https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/dec/24/uk-students-lose-erasmus-membership-in-brexit-deal Featured picture: Brexit: A parting of ways (Credit: rawpixel.com)

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