The chimes of Big Ben at 11.00 last night marked a new era for the United Kingdom and relations with the European Union, as the transition period came to an end and the four nations are no longer part of the single market and the customs union.
The start of this new relationship was devoid of celebrations, including also because of restrictions as a result of the pandemic. In his message for the New Year, however, Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the occasion as a new beginning for the United Kingdom.
“We have our freedom in our hands, and it is up to us to make the most of it. And I think it will be the overwhelming instinct of the people of this country to come together as one United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland working together to express our values around the world.”
This sentiment, however, was not reflected by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who wrote on Twitter asking the European Union not to extinguish the flame, as her country will soon return to the European bloc. This as the sentiment in favour of independence has again gained ground in Scotland, not least because of Brexit.
The future is unknown, but the divisive subject still causes mixed reactions among British citizens.
“I think we’ve got a few rocky, maybe, years, but I think eventually, yeah (it will be positive for Britain). I think we’ve got some good deals on the table already, yes I do.”
“The idea that we’re this nation in the world that could do better outside something the size of the European Union I think is a bit stupid.”
“To be honest with you I don’t mind either way. I think whatever happens it doesn’t matter too much. The important thing is that you do the right thing.”
French President Emmanuel Macron stated that although Brexit has gone through, the United Kingdom will remain an ally and a friend of France.
The first effects of the new reality are starting to be felt in practice, with trucks which used the Eurotunnel between England and France at night having to present documents to frontier customs officers.
New practices involving travel have also come into effect, as free movement between both sides has now ended.
The authorities in Europe and those in the UK have warned of possible delays at the borders in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, agreement was reached in the past hours between the Governments of the United Kingdom and Spain, enabling the border between Gibraltar – a British territory – and Spain to remain open. This will mean that Gibraltar, where 15,000 Spanish persons go to work every day, will continue to follow Schengen rules and other European rules.
Gibraltar’s First Minister Fabian Picardo said the agreement still has to be formalised between the UK and the European Union.