LONDON (AP) – So far the vast majority of UK and EU citizens have not felt the realities of Brexit. Although the UK left the European Union on January 31, it is following bloc rules until the end of this year as part of a period of transition to the new economic relationship.
Everything is ready to change.
On January 1, Britain begins its new, more distant relationship with the EU after nearly five decades of closer economic, cultural and social integration.
The change for the British economy and people is the most dramatic since World War II, certainly more so than when the country joined what was then the European Economic Community in 1973.
“It’s a much bigger shock to our economic system and it’s going to happen instantly,” said Anand Menon, UK director in a changing Europe think tank and professor of European politics and politics. Foreign Affairs at King’s College London.
“Suddenly you wake up in a new world at the beginning of January.”
Here are some of the changes in the movement that people will start to feel almost overnight.
WHAT IS CHANGING?
Even though the coronavirus pandemic has led to a collapse in the number of people traveling between Britain and the EU, the end of freedom of movement from January 1 will be the most tangible consequence of Brexit to date.
As part of the divorce deal reached by the two sides on December 24, the roughly 1 million UK citizens who are legally resident in the EU will have broadly the same rights they have now. The same goes for over 3 million EU citizens living in the UK
But British citizens will no longer have the automatic right to live and work in the EU, and vice versa. People who want to cross the border to settle will have to follow immigration rules and deal with other red tape, such as making sure their qualifications are recognized.
The exception is people traveling between the UK and Ireland, who have a separate common travel area.
For many EU members, the freedom to be able to travel, study and live anywhere in the bloc of 27 nations is one of the most attractive aspects of European integration.
Yet some in Britain and other parts of Western Europe have become more skeptical of freedom of movement after several former Communist Eastern European countries joined the EU in 2004 and many of their citizens have moved to the UK and other wealthier countries to work. Concerns about immigration were a major factor in the British vote on Brexit in 2016. On January 1, the consequences of this decision will become apparent for British and European citizens.
WHAT ARE THE NEW TRAVEL RULES?
Although holiday travel remains visa-free, UK nationals will only be allowed to spend 90 out of 180 days in the EU, while the UK will allow EU citizens to stay for up to six consecutive months.
For retired British citizens who are used to spending more than three months in their second homes on Spain’s sunny Costa del Sol, the change can come as a shock. British travelers to Europe will also need to have at least six months on their passport and purchase their own travel insurance. Britons will no longer receive the European Health Insurance Card, which guarantees access to medical care throughout the bloc, but the UK says it is putting in place a replacement system so that British visitors to the bloc and EU citizens visiting Britain still have medical coverage.
WHAT ABOUT PETS?
For UK citizens accustomed to taking their dog, cat or ferret on holiday to Europe every summer, the situation will become more complicated as Britain will no longer be part of the EU’s pet passport program – although the accord avoids the long procedures of several months which some had feared. UK pet owners will need to microchip and vaccinate their pet against rabies at least 21 days before travel, and will need to obtain an animal health certificate from a veterinarian no more than 10 days before departure.
WILL DRIVING BE A PROBLEM?
The deal means UK drivers won’t need an international driving license once they cross the Channel. UK motorists can travel within the EU with their UK licenses and insurance, provided they have proof that they are insured in the form of a ‘green card’.
WHAT ABOUT WORK?
The end of freedom of movement will have a major impact on hiring at all levels of the labor market.
A newly graduated British citizen on vacation in the Greek Islands, for example, will not be able to walk to a beach bar and look for part-time work without having the necessary visa. The same goes for European citizens arriving in the UK. They will not be able to go to a sandwich shop like Pret a Manger and look for work without the necessary documents.
Large companies will also find it much more difficult and expensive to hire people from the other side. The agreement includes provisions allowing entrepreneurs and business travelers to make short-term visa-free work trips.
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