The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland officially leaves the European Union on Friday, January 31 at 23:00 UTC (midnight of February 1, Brussels time) after three and a half years of intense negotiations, demonstrations, elections and turmoil that Britain had not seen in decades.
A country divided down the middle between those who want the UK to again become a fully independent kingdom and those who want to remain inside the European fold, is finally taking the big step of leaving, 47 years after it officially joined the club.
"Old friends, new beginnings."
Watch statements on the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union and on the Future of Europe by Presidents @vonderleyen, @EP_President, and @eucopresident. #NewBeginnings 🇪🇺🇬🇧 https://t.co/56Jzm19qJx
— European Commission 🇪🇺 (@EU_Commission) January 31, 2020
Despite the undeniable symbolic dimensions of Friday night’s departure, however, nothing significant is expected to change soon.
The UK will continue to abide by European law — at least until December 31, 2020, with a one or even two-year extension being very possible if London and Brussels don’t manage to find an agreement on what their future relationship will look like after 2021.
European Union citizens will still be able to travel, stay and even work in Britain, and Britons will enjoy the same rights throughout the EU, until at least December 31, 2020.
Almost everyone in Europe is describing Great Britain’s departure today as a historic yet deeply sad day for a continent which has been ravaged in the past by national divisions.
However, half of Britain and definitely its government sees this historic event as a great opportunity for the country to take back control of its policies, forging a future according to its own will.
Will Great Britain succeed after Brexit? Will the United Kingdom remain truly United?
No one really knows for sure, especially since the independence movement in Scotland, a country which overwhelmingly voted to remain in the European Union, is growing dramatically.
Only time will tell whether London’s momentous decision was made for good or for ill.
What is sure for now is that one of Europe’s greatest nations is taking a different turn in the road away from the rest of Europe, and beginning a new journey into the unknown.