On December 30th 2020, EU leaders Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel signed the Brexit trade deal and soon after Boris Johnson also put his name to the documents after the UK Parliament approved this deal in the context of a looming deadline.
As agreed, the UK left the EU single market and customs union on December 31st , 2020 and marked the end of quite a long post-Brexit transition period. Therefore, on January 1st, 2021, the UK was formally established as a third country where EU law is no longer applicable.
In addition, the free movement of people between the EU and the UK and vice-versa was halted. People can however travel from Malta to the UK for six months without a visa, meanwhile Brits will be able to travel to Malta for a maximum of 90 days without a visa. The same concept applies for the other EU countries.
Furthermore, due to the free trade agreement between the UK and the EU, products from the UK can be imported to Malta at no extra tariff, which is good news for trade between the two countries. That being said, the disadvantage that Brexit brings to the table that there will be more paperwork which will need to be filled in by the parties importing said goods.
Regarding education, the UK will no longer be forming part of the Erasmus+ programme, however the government in the UK is working on creating a new programme similar to Erasmus which is to be offered to students in the EU. Its details are still rather vague, however it will be named after Alan Turing, the mathematician who cracked the notorious German Enigma code during World War II. In addition, agreements related to health will remain in place despite Brexit.
Meanwhile, Theresa May, past Prime Minister of the UK, has voiced her unease for the deal in the House of Commons, saying “We have a deal in trade which benefits the EU, but not a deal in services which would have benefited the UK.” In fact, fishermen in Britain reacted quite unfavourably to this omission from the trade deal, as services constitute 80% of the British economy.
It can be argued that this deal was overall good for the EU, as despite the delay, the UK’s exit of the union was an orderly one, considering the ‘No Deal’ scenario did not take place. Moreover, it might also be said that any urges of other EU countries to follow suit were stifled due to the deal leaving the UK with worse trade access than it had before as an EU member. Furthermore, other things the UK will miss out on by leaving Brexit include Brits’ right to live and work in the other 27 EU countries, financial passporting for banks and ensured cheap roaming rates.
To conclude, it can be seen that the EU showed that yes, there was a way out of the Union, but it is a lengthy, sacrificial and ultimately, unprofitable one.