The United Kingdom’s transitional arrangements with the European Union end tonight at 11pm, ending four and a half years of discord following the referendum on June 23, 2016, and just under a year after the UK officially left the bloc on January 31, 2020.
At 12.25am today (30th December), Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle announced that the EU (Future Relationship) Act 2020, had been given royal assent by the Queen and the measures passed into UK law.
MPs in the Commons overwhelmingly backed the bill yesterday afternoon by 521 votes to 73, followed by debate in the House of Lords lasting more than eight hours, in which more than 120 peers spoke. The legislation made it through both Houses of Parliament in just one day, ending with an unopposed reading. Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, ordered his MPs to support the measures, although he called the deal “thin” and not what the government promised, but better than no deal. Just one Labour MP, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, MP for Streatham, voted against the Bill although more than 30 abstained.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said: “I want to thank my fellow MPs and peers for passing this historic Bill and would like to express my gratitude to all of the staff here in Parliament and across government who have made today possible. The destiny of this great country now resides firmly in our hands. We take on this duty with a sense of purpose and with the interests of the British public at the heart of everything we do.
Among the things that will change from 11pm tonight are:
• A points-based immigration system will replace free movement of people between the UK and EU countries. EU citizens who wish to move to the UK (other than from the Irish Republic) will have to meet the same requirements as citizens from elsewhere in the world.
• UK residents who wish to visit the EU for more than 80 days in any 180-day period will need a visa. UK citizens who wish to live or work in the EU will need to get permission.
• You will need to renew your passport to visit EU countries if it has less than six months left before it expires on the day you travel. Your current passport remains valid even though it says European Union on the cover. From 2022 UK nationals will have to pay for a visa-waiver scheme in order to visit many EU countries.
• Pet passports will no longer be valid. New arrangements will come into force if you wish to take your pet abroad.
• Duty-free shopping will make a comeback; visitors returning to the UK from the EU are able to bring up to 42 litres of beer, 18 litres of wine, four litres of spirits and 200 cigarettes without paying tax.
• EU citizens wanting to move to the UK (except those from the Irish Republic) will face the same points-based system as people from elsewhere in the world
• Exporters will face more paperwork when dealing with EU countries, but (with a few very limited exceptions) will be able to export unlimited quantities of goods with no tariffs.
• But from 2022, UK nationals will have to pay for a visa-waiver scheme in order to visit many European countries.
• You’ll also no longer be able to use EU fast-track passport control and customs lanes.
• You’ll need an International Driving Permit (which costs £5.50 from the Post Office) and a green card from your insurance company before taking your car abroad.
• When sending packages to any EU country you must attach a customs declaration. This does not apply to letters, postcards or documents.
• You’ll need travel insurance, including healthcare insurance when you travel to the EU. Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will continue to be valid until it expires, but will only cover emergency care. Once your EHIC expires it can be replaced with a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).
• There may be roaming charges from your mobile phone provider when you visit the EU. Check before you travel.
Isle of Wight MP, Bob Seely, said: “Today is a historic day. We voted on the free trade agreement with the EU, on a promise we made to the people of Britain to deliver Brexit.
“Despite the scaremongering, it was always the Government’s intention to try to reach a deal, but it had to be the right one for our country. To get a deal, we had to be prepared to walk away. It was this determination that delivered a significantly better deal that many thought possible. Well done, the Prime Minister and his team.
“I believe that this deal is a strong one, and delivers on our promise to take back control of our money, borders and laws. I voted for it.”