Feature

Britain’s Exit: Day One

Ellie Montgomery | OPINION |

‘Brexit’ has been something of a perilous journey. After 17.4 million people voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union back in June 2016, it has been anything but a done deal.

With seemingly endless delays, dithering politicians, countless elections and much public confusion, the date was finally set. With the third prime minister since the referendum and a country growing increasingly impatient, on a cold Friday evening at the end of January, it was done. The UK left the European Union.

So, waking up on the morning of February 1, 2020, what has changed? In truth, very little seems any different to last weekend when we were snug as a bug in a European rug. We have entered what is nationally being known as a ‘transition period’, which means 11 more months of Brexit being in the news and abiding by EU laws.

Until the end of this period on December 31, 2020, EU nationals and Britons alike will be able to retain their freedom of movement, with little changes to any regulations. There will be little impact felt on much of the country for many months, with workers, students, citizens and visitors all continuing life as normal, until we get a deal negotiated with the European Union to discuss what we can have and what we can’t.

There were scenes of celebration in London and across the country, as Big Ben “bonged!” the UK out of the EU on the 31st of January. There were also scenes of stark contrast which saw hundreds of people protesting and sharing their ongoing disdain in regards to the departure.

Out and about in Central London, on the first Europe-less night since December 1972, the mood is one of jubilation. For most people in the city, Brexit is the last thing on their minds, at least on a Saturday afternoon. The first weekend after payday, the mood was jolly and less phased by the political state of the country.

A staunch “Remain” area of the country, London has handled Brexit the way London handles anything (except the weather). There was a bit of an eye roll over the newspaper on the commute to work after the vote to leave was announced in June 2016, but since then, Brexit has had little relevance in the lives of most average Londoners. Whilst Brexit will undoubtedly impact certain industries a lot more forcefully than others, the attitude in most of London is more of a disapproving ‘sigh’ of inconvenience, rather than people worrying about the outcomes of political discussions they are not a part of.

There may be one less member in Club Europe in 2020, but the UK definitely has one long journey ahead of itself. Nobody knows how the process will pan out and whether or not the little island in the North Sea will be able to hammer out a deal with its mainland family, or if New Year’s Eve 2020 will see the UK shunned to the back of the room like a climate change denying, drunk and racist uncle at a house party. Knock, Knock Australia.


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