Now that Britain and the EU have a deal, what happens next?

The deal was struck just days before Christmas
The deal was struck just days before Christmas Copyright Virginia Mayo/AP
By Michael Daventry
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Euronews examines the future of the Brexit process and revisits the turbulent years that took us to a free trade agreement


Now that Britain and the European Union have agreed a deal on their future relationship, a major hurdle has been cleared in the Brexit process that began in June 2016.

But although it has been a turbulent four-and-a-half years, the process is not yet complete.

On this page we round up Euronews reporting and analysis from the past few years to explain how Brexit unfolded and what will happen next.

Now that we have a deal, is Brexit officially over?

Not quite. The deal still needs to be ratified by Britain's parliament, the European Parliament and by all 27 EU member states.

One expert told Euronews that process will take up to two years to complete.

But reaching a free trade agreement is a major stage in that process because the EU is Britain's biggest trading partner.

Read more: [Pritchard] What steps do both sides need to take to ratify the deal?

So will I notice any changes in early 2021?

If you live in the UK, or in an EU country like Ireland, France or Belgium that is close to it, the answer is yes.

Life will change significantly for Britons and Europeans from January 1, 2021, with changes to the rules on freedom of movement, residency rights, health insurance and pet passports.

Read more: Life after Brexit: What will change for people in 2021 when the UK is free of EU rules?

What were the issues that divided the UK and EU?

Fishing rights emerged as a major issue in recent months because EU rules allowed Europeans to catch fish in British waters for decades. The British bid to have greater control of access to its waters led to significant differences.

Read more:Fishing is the latest issue to get caught up in Brexit’s net

There was also the question of a level-playing field — another way of describing the EU's demands for fair competition between the two sides.

Read more:Can the state subsidy row blocking a EU-UK trade deal be resolved?

The EU's biggest concern was to avoid UK "cherry-picking", its term for the British wish to retain those elements of the single market it liked and dispense with those it did not want.

For the UK, the key term was sovereignty — enshrined in the Brexit campaign's biggest slogan, "Take Back Control".

Read more: Brexit trade talks — key terms explained

What would have happened if there was no deal?

No deal would have meant significant changes from January 1, 2021 to cross-border traffic and the way both Britons and Europeans live their lives.


The UK's departure from the Single Market and Customs Union on that date would have meant tariffs on the goods traded across the border and extra costs for the vehicles that cross it.

The service industry would have been severely disrupted too, with the UK and EU possibly not recognising one another's professional qualifications.

It was a prospect that both sides took seriously with contingency measures.

Read more: What is the difference between a deal and a no deal?

How did we get here?

The process began on June 23, 2016, when people in the UK unexpectedly voted to end their country’s membership of the European Union.


The margin was narrow — 51.9% voted to leave against 48.1% who opted to remain — but its effects were colossal: it saw the immediate resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, who had campaigned for continued membership, and his replacement with Theresa May, who began the process of making Britain the first country to leave the European Union.

But the process was stormy: British politics became torn between “Remainers”, who believed the country had made a terrible mistake, and “Leavers”, who differed on the severity with which ties with European should be cut.

May, a Remainer, eventually negotiated divorce terms that would see Britain leave the EU on March 29, 2019. But after the House of Commons rejected her deal three times, she was forced to seek an extension to the UK’s EU membership.

In August she was replaced by Boris Johnson, a Leave supporter, who renegotiated the divorce deal and won a snap general election in December that granted him a parliamentary majority to ratify it.

Britain formally left the EU on January 31, 2020 and the two sides have been negotiating future trade terms since then.

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