Europe News

Brexit is happening Friday but not much is changing ... for now

Key Points
  • There will be a light display in Downing Street — the official residency of the prime minister, with a clock counting down to 11 p.m.
  • Other U.K. political buildings will also be lit up.
  • On the European side, there are no events planned, apart from a press statement Friday morning.
An employee enters sliding doors decorated with the stars of the European Union (EU) flag at the Berlaymont building, headquarters of the European Commission (EC), in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. It took 32 months, two prime ministers, and nearly 30 votes in Parliament to extricate Britain from the European Union and the hardest part of the negotiations hasn't even started.
Bloomberg

The U.K. may be leaving the European Union on Friday, but its relationship with the bloc isn't changing for now.

This means that if, next week, you want to fly from London to Milan or you are shipping French products to the U.K., there will be no difference from how things have been done for the last few years.

The U.K. stops being a member of the EU at 11 p.m. London time on Friday, and a transition period will begin from that moment onward. Practically speaking, the U.K. will still be subject to European laws and rules, it will not have voting rights around the EU table, but it will be allowed to develop new trade arrangements with other parts of the world.

This will be the case until the end of 2020, at least.

The transition period is also meant to give EU and U.K. negotiators more time to outline their future relationship. This will include new arrangements on fishing, security, data sharing and the overall trade of goods and services.

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Where did Brexit come from?

Data published in July showed that trade between the 27 remaining European countries with the U.K. represented 5.2% of the region's total trade in 2018. In comparison, the U.K.'s trade with the other EU countries represented more than half of its total trading volume in the same year, underlining the importance of new trade deals for the Brits.

The same report showed that the EU-27 was the top trading partner of the U.K. in 2018, whereas the latter was only the third biggest country for EU trade, after the U.S. and China.

One-sided celebrations?

The U.K. government will hold a special meeting in the north of England and Prime Minister Boris Johnson will speak to the nation on Friday evening.

There will be a light display in Downing Street — the official residency of the prime minister, with a clock counting down to 11 p.m. Other U.K. political buildings will also be lit up.

The U.K.'s Union Jack flag will be flown on all flag poles in Parliament Square, the area in front of the U.K. Parliament. And lastly, a commemorative Brexit coin will come into circulation.

Meanwhile, on the European side, there are no events planned, apart from a press statement Friday morning.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JANUARY 28: The United Kingdom working place in the EU Council prior to an EU General Affairs Ministers meeting in the Europea building, the EU Council headquarter on January 28, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium.
Thierry Monasse