By Francesca O’ Mahoney
It has finally happened – 1,317 days and three Prime Ministers later, Britain has finally achieved its not-so-graceful exit from the European Union (well, almost). The clocks chiming for 11pm on Friday, 31st January splintered an already divided nation as jubilance in Parliament Square starkly contrasted the sombre pessimism of those of us who were not quite ready to part ways with Europe. Friday’s deadline, however, did not represent the clean break from the EU that Johnson’s “Get Brexit Done” campaign slogan had so vehemently promised.
On Saturday morning, Brexiteers did not wake up to a new, fantastical utopia of British independence, nor were curtains opened to the apocalyptic nightmare envisioned by remainers. After three and a half years of waiting, it seemed as though we were finally crossing the finish line of a race that just about everyone was sick of running. But we have not yet breathed the sigh of relief that was promised to us – and we won’t for another eleven months.
Until December, the chaos that has defined the last three and half years of British politics will continue, as the government faces the consequences and terms of Britain’s departure. The first priority is trade, and the negotiation of an agreement that will define the economic future of our country. Britain must secure a trade deal with the European Union, to be agreed and ratified before December 31st 2020, or an exit transition will be made without, meaning that any trade between the UK and EU will be done on World Trade Organisation terms. The economic costs of this will be felt in the most vulnerable regions of the country, whilst Westminster continues without a scratch and Johnson gets a pat on the back for ‘fixing’ a problem that his own party created in the first place. Those who are affected are forgotten, and those who have forgotten them once again rise to the top.
Although the U.K. remains in the EU’s customs union and single market during this transition period, it is strictly outside its legislative and judicial institutions and there will be no more British members of the European Parliament. In other words, we are still adhering to EU rules, we just no longer have asay in what they stipulate. We are not involved, yet we are not independent.
Brexit was built upon the rhetorical foundation of taking back control, yet we now balance precariously, leaning on the EU like a crutch, hoping to return unscathed from the next eleven months of uncertainty and instability. We are still facing unresolved questions about the U.K.’s future relationship with the European Union, and as the stakes get higher we are no closer to getting any answers. The idea of a new era for Britain that the Brexit campaign has shoved down our throats for the last three and half years has fallen flat and the future of post-Brexit Britain remains as ambiguous as ever.