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Brexit is happening today: What will that mean for Britain and the EU?

History is made today as the first country to ever exit the EU takes its leave.

Brexit will take effect a 11pm GMT tonight The EU told the country on Friday it cannot expect “the highest quality access to the single market” unless it adopts EU standards on the environment, workers’ rights, tax and state aid With Phase 1 soon to be complete, Brexit's transitionary Phase 2 will prove crucial to the nation moving forward

After a tug of war that has lasted three and a half years in Parliament, Brexit is finally happening tonight, at 11 pm GMT. The 31st of January will officially go down in history as the day a country left the European Union (EU) for the first time. 

The UK seems to know what it’s doing, confident of going it solo. Still, what will Brexit mean for Britain and the EU? 

Brexit? Not just yet

The British exit – or Brexit as it was referred to later – refers to Britain leaving the European Union after being a member since 1973. 

The European Union has held together 28 out of the 50 countries in Europe for decades, often sharing in one currency, mutual trade agreements and laws. Now, the the Union is up for a major shake-up. The specifics are still hazy, with a lot to be agreed on still. 

“While the UK has agreed the terms of its EU departure, both sides still need to decide what their future relationship will look like,” the BBC notes. “This will be worked out during the transition period (which some prefer to call the implementation period), which begins immediately after Brexit day and is due to end on 31 December 2020. “

Because of this transitional period, the UK will remain part of the EU for the next 11 months in all but name, while both parties race against the clock to hammer out new agreements regarding everything from trade, fishing rights, security and more.

“The UK might be leaving the EU, but as of 11:01 p.m., it will continue to obey all EU law and European courts,” CNN reports. “In the coming months, it will continue to pay into the EU budget and comply with any changes to EU law. That means that the only things that will change are largely symbolic. The UK will cease to have any meaningful representation in EU institutions and will no longer attend any meetings of EU leaders. So it will be obeying EU rules while having no say in EU policy. 

The EU plays it tough

Infographic by StatistaWhile it is easy to assume it’s simply the UK that will be severely impacted by the exit, the EU will too face its share of challenges. The mere idea of a member state exiting the Union remains a new concept, and a lot of mutual laws and agreements will need to be reworked to work with the now separatist state. Furthermore, a smooth Brexit transition could potentially encourage other Union nations to conisder leaving if things don’t turn their way. 

As for Britain, the EU told the country on Friday it cannot expect “the highest quality access to the single market” unless it adopts EU standards on the environment, workers’ rights, tax and state aid, Reuters reported.

“Without being a member, you cannot retain the benefits of membership,” EU leaders said in an op-ed published by European media. “Without the free movement of people, there can be no free movement of capital, goods and services.”

EU leaders have kept a brave face on Brexit, less than 24 hours away from the split, saying the remaining 27 countries united can tackle climate change and technological transformation despite losing a member state for the first time, Reuters reported. 

“The challenges that Europe faces and the opportunities that it can grasp have not changed because of Brexit,” the head of the European Union’s executive, Ursula von der Leyen, told a news conference ahead of Britain’s departure, adding that the EU must focus on leading the way globally on tackling climate change, the digital revolution and migration, as per Reuters. 

As the UK enters its transitional period, the EU’s market ‘watchog’ will keep an eye on trade proceedings.

Chart by CNN

“In the coming 11 months, ESMA will continue monitoring the application of EU law to/in the UK and will closely monitor developments in preparation for the end of the transition period,” the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) said in a statement on Friday, as per a report by Reuters.

Back in September of last year, the UN trade agency UNCTAD warned that leaving the EU without a trade deal would cost Britain at least $16 billion in lost exports, “representing an approximate 7% loss of overall UK exports to the EU,’ and would probably cost far more after indirect effects are taken into account. 

What’s next?British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonWith the first phase of Brexit concluding today, we enter Phase 2, the transition period, which could spell fortune or plight for Britain going forward.

There are 3 outcomes to this phase: 

  1. The 2 parties reach a trade deal, and the transition period succeeds smoothly
  2. Britain exits with no trade deal, which woud deal its economy a significant blow
  3. The transition period is extended to further work things out

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to “get Brexit done” by 31 January 2020.

“While Mr [Boris] Johnson has pledged to “get Brexit done” by 31 January 2020, many more months of negotiation lie ahead,” the BBC reminded. The British Prime Minister certainly has his work cut out for him.