At 2300 hours on 31 January 2020, Britain left the European Union. After some 1316 days after the turbulent saga began with that infamous vote on 23 June 2016 the nation of the Union Jack was no longer a member. And whilst the Brexit Party has got what it wanted, plenty of uncertainty awaits the nation that New Zealand will now most probably try to make a trade agreement with, the highest priority.
For the most immediate future though, life goes on in much the same way unless one is one of the British Members of the European Parliament. who now find themselves redundant. The hard border that many were concerned would immediately pop up between Britain and Ireland and its security implications as well as historical implications, will not appear – if at all – until the transition period from being an E.U. member nation is complete.
But make no mistake, for better or for worse the implications of what happened at 2300 hours 31 January 2020 are huge. Millions of people living in the U.K. long term, especially those in minority ethnic groups are probably feeling somewhat uncertain at the moment. The Romanian population in Britain is reporting that it is no longer feeling welcome, just as Bucharest launches a “return home” appeal to those Romanians who reside in Britain.Those such as the Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders who have visa arrangements and whose countries are on good terms with Britain, may have an easier time.
With Britain now out of the E.U., a host of laws will need to be revisited to make sure that they are still fit for purpose. Far from being the most turbulent part of the whole charade, the real turbulence as immigration, trade, environmental and other policy areas come under renewed scrutiny, might actually be still to come.
Amongst all of this, Britain will be looking at the scope for trade deals with other nations. New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the U.S. and others will be high priorities. So will be resetting their security relations in terms of defence and foreign policy. All of this is something that has not gone unnoticed by the New Zealand Government, with Minister of Trade David Parker hoping to have some sort of trade deal wrapped up with Britain by 2021. Mr Parker will be under pressure to have streamlined access to British markets for New Zealand produce that might have been complicated by E.U. laws prior to 31 January. New Zealanders living in the United Kingdom might be hoping for easier processes in terms of becoming U.K. permanent residents and citizens as well.
For now though, the fallout from Brexit will not really start to be known for a while. The Irish border will remain open, but in the Oireachtas Éireann, as much as in the House of Commons, no doubt a lot of people will be starting to have some deep conversations in the coming days and weeks about how the border should function. Similarly in Scotland’s Parliament, the Parliamaid na h-Alba, there will be conversations that Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister will be leading about where Scotland goes – it did not vote to leave the E.U., and Ms Sturgeon is promising Scotland will be back, which some think could lead to a break with Britain and thus the end of U.K.