1,645 days after the UK voted to leave the EU, Prime Minister Boris Johnson finally struck a trade deal last Thursday following weeks of hard talks.
The two sides reached an agreement – which covered significant World Trade Organisation tariffs on up to £660bn a year of UK trade – just before Christmas, and it came after the repeated missing of deadlines in October and November.
Businesses and firms will be relieved to know that a long list EU rules and standards won’t crash to an end on New Year’s Eve, but you may remember that Brexit had officially already happened on 31st January.
And that means some things were always going to change.
The Brexit Transition period draws to a close at 11pm on Thursday 31st December, bringing a permanent end to many EU rules and rights for UK citizens.
Here’s 12 things that will change for you, your friends and family, and your travel from Friday.
1. You will no longer have the right to live and work in the EU
From 1st January, EU citizens will be barred from moving to the UK unless they have a job offer, earn at least £20,480, speak good English, and have certain skills, and on the reverse, UK citizens must get permission to live or work in EU nations, and will need a visa for most trips over 90 days.
EU nationals already living in the UK must register for “settled status” by 30 June 2021.
To get settled status, you must have been living in the UK for at least five years continuously without a break of more than six months, but if you have not been in the UK for this long, you can get “pre-settled status” and make a second application when you reach the five-year mark to upgrade it to settled status.
There is no fee to apply after the government agreed to demands to scrap it.
If you’re a UK national in the EU, you may need to apply for residency status in the country you’re living in before June 2021.
A precise set of rules for each country can be found here.
2. UK citizens may be blocked from EU travel due to coronavirus (COVID-19)
While there is certainly no permanent ban on Brits travelling to the EU, the combination of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the “new variant”, along with Brexit is expected to lead to more restrictions in the short term.
The EU has two regimes for travel during the pandemic – one for its member countries and another for non-EU countries.
While some EU travel is allowed if your country is already in the EU, only a handful of countries are allowed to make “non-essential” travel from outside the EU, into it, and as of mid-December, only eight countries were on that list.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab admitted travel could be disrupted across Europe, telling the BBC: “COVID restrictions will depend on the combination of what the EU decides, but also member states”.
3. You must renew your passport six months early – and pay to visit the EU from 2022
If your current passport says ‘European Union’ on the cover, then it remains valid and you automatically do not need to renew it, however if it has less than six months before expiry on the day you travel, renewal is necessary.
Your passport must also be no more than 10 years old, even if it has six months left before expiry.
At the moment, British citizens can enter ‘Schengen area’ countries with a valid passport even if they only have a day left, and as a tourist, you will still be able to travel to most EU countries – plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – without a visa to stay for up to 90 days in any rolling 180-day period.
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.
4. Significant disruption could be seen on roads and at ports
While the agreed trade deal means that many of the most disruptive consequences of Brexit to citizens – like price hikes on fresh produce – will no longer happen, the UK is still leaving the EU’s single market and customs union on 1st January, which is expected to bring a new set of challenges with it.
The UK government is braced for disruption on roads and at ports – especially in Kent – as lorry drivers go through new checks.
Ten lorry parks are being opened – some from 1st January – to carry out checks away from the border, and trucks may be deliberately queued on the M20 leading to the Kent ports by using a moveable barrier called Operation Brock.
Disruption may not just be limited to freight ports either, as Eurostar is asking passengers to arrive “a little earlier than usual” and “at least one hour before departure” due to new checks.
5. New paperwork for businesses, and new rules for firms trading with Belfast
UK business owners will need to make customs declarations when they import or export goods to and from the EU, and if you run a business, you will need an EORI number to do this.
If you don’t get one by 31st December, your goods may be delayed.
Importers will also need to check what new licences and certificates they may now need, firms will need to check the rules for importing alcohol, tobacco and certain oils, and while most businesses can get an agent or similar to deal with customs for them, this comes with extra costs.
When it comes to trading with Belfast, the UK and EU have agreed checks will not take place at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Northern Ireland will continue to follow many of the EU’s rules – meaning that lorries can continue to drive across the island of Ireland without having to be inspected – but in return, there will be a new “regulatory” border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales).
This means some checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will be needed.
Those checks will take place at the ports in Northern Ireland, and customs duties will have to be paid on some goods which are deemed “at risk” of travelling into the EU at a later date.
6. There will be changes to pet and service animal travel
EU ‘pet passports’ for dogs, cats and ferrets will no longer be valid from 1st January 2021 and instead, you’ll have to visit a vet 10 days to a month before each trip you take with your pet – and that includes guide dogs and other service animals.
The animal will need to be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before travel.
Ten days or less before travel, a vet then needs to issue an EU Model Health Certificate to allow the pet into the EU, and pet owners will have to report with their animal to a Travellers’ Point of Entry once they arrive in Europe.
The change is because the UK has become a ‘Part 2 listed’, rather than an ‘unlisted’ country for pet travel.
This is less onerous than originally feared however, as it was first it thought that UK pet owners would have to visit the vet four months before a trip.
7. You may be hit by mobile phone roaming charges on holiday
Thanks to relatively-recent EU rule, mobile phone users currently get free data roaming across the whole of the EU, but after 1st January, Brits will no longer get this privilege and providers will be free to hit you with roaming charges abroad.
You must check with your phone provider to see if you will be affected.
A government summary says the deal “contains measures to encourage cooperation on the promotion of fair and transparent rates for international mobile roaming”, but that stops short of charges being banned all together.
If you are hit with roaming charges, you could potentially rack up a bill of £45 before you are prompted and asked if you want to spend more.
8. You will need a special permit to drive your car in the EU
A UK driving licence is currently the only thing visitors need to get behind the wheel on the continent, but from 1st January, many countries will require UK nationals to get an International Driving Permit, which costs £5.50 at the Post Office.
You will also have to apply for a ‘green card’ to prove you have the right car insurance.
The certificates are free of charge (with admin fees expected) and are available from insurance companies, and those who forget their green cards could be forced to buy expensive “frontier” insurance in the country they are visiting.
You can see if you need an IDP in the country you will be visiting here.
9. You may be blocked from your streaming services on holiday
Streaming subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime will no longer be forced by law to let you watch your account in full in the EU, and while the exact policy is up to individual companies, in theory, you could lose access to some content if you’re watching overseas.
This is because the UK will no longer be bound by the EU’s “portability regulation” from 1st January.
10. Package holiday bookers will get less legal protection
Those who choose to book a package holiday could be left with no legal protection if the firm they booked with goes out of business.
Currently, British nationals have “insolvency protection” if they book with a package holiday provider that’s based anywhere in the EU, but after 1st January, that protection will only apply if the firms are established in the UK or are “actively targeting” the UK market.
It’s advised to check the firm’s terms and conditions before you book to make sure you’ll be protected.
11. You might not be able to take a ham sandwich with you on holiday
As bizarre as it sounds, the government’s website warns: “You will not be able to take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries from 1 January 2021.”
There are some exceptions to this, such as for certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food for medical reasons, but the full rules on the European Commission’s website make clear the meat and milk ban includes “personal goods”.
You can find more information here.
12. Erasmus is being scrapped
The Erasmus scheme allows UK university students to study abroad in one of 32 participating nations, and some can get a “large contribution” to their tuition fees back in the UK as well as a grant of up to €350 a month, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson complained the programme – which the UK joined in 1987 – was “extremely expensive”.
He announced the UK will launch a replacement programme named after Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing.
The Prime Minister boasted the new ‘Turing Scheme’ will allow students to study at universities across the world, not just Europe, but he gave no details of how it will work, what it will cost or when it will start.
Universities UK slammed the “disappointing” decision, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said it was one of his only two regrets, and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon branded it an act of “cultural vandalism”.
You can find more information regarding the Brexit Transition via the gov.uk website here.