UK starts new journey after Brexit saga

2021-01-02 12:03:09

The first truck, from Estonia, enters the Eurotunnel terminal on Friday in Coquelles, France, after the United Kingdom leaves the EU single market. [Photo/Agencies] But political and social divisions remain deep and may last for years LONDON-The United Kingdom on Friday began a new year and life outside the European Union, after leaving the bloc's single market trading rules to go it alone for the first time in nearly half a century. Brexit, which has dominated politics on both sides of the Channel since 2016, became reality an hour before midnight, ending the UK's 48-year obligation to follow Brussels' rules. Free movement of more than 500 million people between Britain and the 27 EU states ended. More rigorous customs checks returned for the first time in decades, despite the hard-fought brokering of a tariff-and quota-free trade deal. New Year's Day newspapers reflected the historic but still deeply divisive change, which will have repercussions for generations to come. The pro-Brexit Daily Express' front-page photograph showed the White Cliffs of Dover-an enduring symbol of Britishness-with "Freedom" written on a Union flag. "Our Future. Our Britain. Our Destiny," its headline says. The pro-EU Independent, though, was less sure:"Off the hook-or cut adrift?" it asked, reflecting widespread uncertainty at the path the country had now chosen. As dawn broke on 2021, attention turned to Britain's borders, particularly its key Channel seaports, to see if the end to seamless trade and travel would cause delays and disruption. But with New Year's Day a public holiday followed by a weekend, and the government having announced the phased introduction of checks, few immediate problems were envisaged. "The traffic forecast for the next few days is very light," said John Keefe, spokesman for Eurotunnel, which transports freight, cars and coaches under the Channel.