ON the stroke of 2021, Brexit totally kicked in with the UK finally unshackled from its always uneasy relationship with the European Union dating back to 1973.
What it means long-term for Britain and its former EU colleagues is anybody’s guess, and it may take close to a decade to work out all the economic pluses and minuses.
It appears to be business as usual for Spanish fruit and veg exporters while British expats have their life in Spain secured under last year’s Withdrawal Agreement.
That’s so long as they have residency or started the application process up to and including yesterday(December 31).
The economic waters have been truly muddied by the COVID-19 pandemic and it is to be hoped that the UK does not suffer from the ‘double whammy’ of Brexit and the coronavirus.
All kinds of claims and counterclaims were made in the run up to the 2016 referendum over UK sovereignty and how an independent Britain would have the freedom to strike trade deals with whom it wanted.
Those deals have been appearing but the terms with countries like Japan do not appear to be any different from agreements done with the EU.
The much-vaunted UK-US trade package has disappeared off the radar as will President Trump later this month.
The most important piece of business was London striking their eleventh-hour ‘Canada-plus’ free trade deal with the EU on Christmas Eve.
Ardent Brexiteers like David Davis, who was the first Secretary of State for ‘Exiting the European Union’, always said that EU talks come right down to that ‘proverbial wire’.
He was proved right, but along with everybody else, he has no magic crystal ball to predict all of the economic consequences, be they good or bad.
Independent economic surveys show that the UK will suffer, certainly for a while.
In the immediate term, as from today(January 1), we have practicalities to look at.
UK PM, Boris Johnson admitted in a round of interviews this week that there would be ‘changes’ over cross-border business and movement.
In true Boris-style, he offered no further illumination as to what that might be.
It is to Spain’s credit that they want trading and visitors as normal.
They even struck an accord yesterday to make sure that EU ‘freedom of movement’ continued to and from Gibraltar.
Regional politicians have shown their respect and gratitude for the UK expats that have made Spain their home.
They also want the vital inflow of British tourists to start pouring again in the post-pandemic world.
It will be interesting to see how they will react with no EHIC insurance cards; paying for a new visa-waver scheme from 2022; the need to get an international driving permit; stricter passport checks; the scrapping of pet passports; and a limit of 200 fags that can be brought back to the UK.
What’s the betting that the Brits who end up moaning about that little lot actually voted to leave the EU in 2016?
Oh yes, and a Happy New Year to you as well!