BREXIT: Britain quits as EU warns of no membership, no benefits
The United Kingdom leaves the European Union on Friday for an uncertain Brexit future, the most significant change to its place in the world since the loss of empire and a blow to 70 years of efforts to forge European unity from the ruins of war.
The country will slip away an hour before midnight from the club it joined in 1973, moving into the no man’s land of a transition period that preserves membership in all but name until the end of this year.
At a stroke, the EU will be deprived of 15% of its economy, its biggest military spender and the world’s international financial capital of London. The divorce will shape the fate of the United Kingdom — and determine its wealth — for generations to come.
“This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson will say in a television address, though he has given few clues about his post-Brexit plans beyond inspirational words.
The leaders of the European Union’s three institutions warned Britain on Friday that it cannot expect “the highest quality access to the single market” unless it adopts the bloc’s standards on environment, labor, taxation and state aid.
“Without being a member, you cannot retain the benefits of membership,” they said in an op-ed published by several European media on Friday, ahead of Britain’s exit from the EU at midnight in Brussels (2300 GMT).
“Without the free movement of people, there can be no free movement of capital, goods and services,” European Council President Charles Michel, European Parliament President David Sassoli and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote.
Britain will no longer be an EU member state from Saturday, but it will enter a transition period until the end of December that is meant to give citizens and businesses time to adapt while an agreement is hammered out on the shape of the future relationship.
Trade, fishing rights and a raft of other issues are up for discussion.
Although the aim is to achieve a “zero tariff, zero quota” trade deal, the EU says that would also require “zero dumping”.
It will insist that Britain remain aligned on standards and regulations to guarantee fair competition, but London has already indicated it will not be “a rule taker”.