Brexit. done. next?
Yesterday was January 31, 2020, Brexit Day. But around London, it was all pretty quiet, a business-as-usual day. Pretty anticlimactic, considering the UK was a founding member of the European Union a lifetime-47 years-ago. Nobody talking about Brexit, no sense of excitement in the air, not much going on except for a planned evening "Celebration" in Parliment Square.
This lack of apparent celebration is so unlike the British, for whom it doesn't take much of a reason to celebrate, or set off fireworks anywhere (think Guy Fawkes Day, a November holiday in which Londoners crazily commemorate a day that a guy way back in 1605 tried to blow up Parliment). There were no fireworks last night on the Thames, no pots banging, whooping or singing on our quiet pedestrian street of Shad Thames. Brexit fatigue for sure.
The evening event in Parliment Square was marked by a respectable showing of flag wavers, a few buildings lit up in red white and blue, a speech by Nigel Farage (head of Brexit) and an imitation Big Ben gong at the stroke of 11pm (since the actual Big Ben is under construction). The 11 PM time was also anti-climactic, dictated by Brussels (12 midnight there), under the EU timetable. Even the weather cooperated, and was its usual dreary and dismal self.
And today, February 1, the European Union flag came down at City Hall, which Jeff and I witnessed as we set off on an adventure to Wales (yet another country who wouldn't mind being independent...but from the UK).
And as we travel towards Wales today on the Great Western Railway, the United Kingdom ventures towards what Prime Minister and Brexit advocate Boris Johnson hails as the "dawn of a new era" and the promise of a "national renewal". The divorce deal is done, but like any divorce, a paperwork filing doesn't mean the end of the relationship. Among UK residents, there is only hope that the future will mend what has been the most internally divisive issue in recent history.
Now the UK will begin an 11 month transition period, in which some things will stay the same:
*The UK will stay in the customs union and single market
*Travel and immigration for UK residents will stay the same in all EU countries in 2020.
*EU health insurance cards will still be valid for UK residents
*EU residents can continue to live and work in the UK and visa versa.
*The UK will continue to contribute into the EU budget .
*UK-EU trade will continue as usual.
And some things will be different:
*The 73 UK members of the European Parliament will lose their seats.
*no more EU summits.
*The UK passports will change color, from Burgandy to Blue (as they were before the EU)
*3 million Brexit commemorative 50p coins will be issued, with the saying "Peace Prosperity and friendship with all nations" on the back.
*1.3 million UK residents in the EU will need to apply by June 2021 for EU residency.
*After 2020, UK residents will only be able to visit the EU for 90 days at a time unless they have a visa waiver.
*City Hall will have to find a new flag to fly.
and that's all I have to report from this very dull, yet momentous day in the history of the United Kingdom.