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Brexit: Boris Johnson says Brexit will help UK bounce back from COVID pandemic

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Brexit will help the UK bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic, pledging to seize regained sovereignty
  • Political leaders give their opinions on Brexit on the fifth anniversary of the referendum
  • EU citizens have a 28-day deadline to apply to remain in the UK
  • Optimism in Northern Ireland protocol with EU set to delay showdown with the UK
  • Former EU vaccine chief says Brexit has isolated the UK

On the fifth anniversary of the Brexit vote, the saga continues to divide individuals and spark tensions between the UK and EU. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has this week stated that Brexit would help the UK bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic and has vowed to seize the UK’s newly regained sovereignty.

The Brexit referendum vote saw 52% of the UK vote to leave the EU, which provoked the resignation of former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who voiced his fervent view to remain. However, Boris Johnson’s determination to secure a Brexit trade deal resulted in an 80-seat majority during the 2019 election.

Reflecting on the fifth anniversary of the Brexit vote, the UK Prime Minister labelled the event as a momentous decision and that the UK was taking back control of its destiny. Outlining the benefits of Benefits, Mr Johnson highlighted that the UK had taken back control of its borders, waters, laws and money, introduced the points-based immigration system and administered a successful coronavirus vaccination programme.

Post-Brexit, the UK also secured a trade deal with the EU on Christmas Eve 2020 and 68 other countries, including Australia. Negotiations have also commenced joining the GBP 9 trillion Pacific trade area.

Mr Johnson went on to say that Brexit progressions will lead to innovation and additional jobs within the UK and provide a better future.

The UK Prime Minister spoke fondly on the anniversary of the Brexit vote, but not everyone had such positive sentiments. Lord Heseltine declared that the UK’s future was ominous, primarily down to the tensions between the UK and EU concerning the Northern Ireland protocol.

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Optimism over UK/EU Northern Ireland Protocol saga

The UK government has shown optimism over the ongoing saga with the EU concerning the Northern Ireland Protocol. The UK caused frustration amongst the EU during the beginning of 2021 after extending their grace period on goods entering Northern Ireland from the UK.

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Edwin Poots said that there would be a significant win on the outcome. Mr Poots stated that he had received assurances from Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis but could not give details of the changes.

The EU previously stated that they would take legal action against the UK, believing the decision to delay checking UK goods to Northern Ireland was an unlawful move. The protocol was a source of focus during the recent G7 Summit in Cornwall, with UK/EU officials mindful to not trigger a larger trade war.

The latest negotiations surrounding the Northern Ireland protocol have concerned checking sausages and chilled meats, with the current grace period set to end in July 2021. The UK has since requested an extension of the ban until the end of October, which the EU is currently considering.

UK Brexit Minister Lord Frost had engaged in ongoing discussions with EU officials to help simplify operations of the Northern Ireland protocol. However, Lord Frost has since stated the negotiations have resulted in minimal progress.

The UK government has not ruled out the possibility of triggering Article 16, which would allow fragments of the protocol to be suspended temporarily. This tactic, however, would further escalate tensions between the UK and EU and is an unfavourable option.

EU citizens have a 28-day deadline to apply to remain in the UK

The UK government has given EU citizens living in the UK a 28-day deadline to apply to remain in the country. However, the Home Office has also stated that they will allow further application completion if individuals have a reasonable excuse for delay, such as students who may not be aware of the application.

With one week to go until the 30th June 2021 deadline, around 5.6 million EU citizens have applied for settled status in the UK, although 400,000 cases remain outstanding. The government helpline is currently receiving thousands of calls each day with queries from EU citizens.

Settled status for EU citizens living in the UK was first introduced following the Brexit referendum in 2016. The status allows individuals to receive the same rights as UK nationals, including residence, travel, employment and healthcare. This option is available for any EU citizens who have consistently lived in the UK for five years plus before 31st December 2020. Data reveals that from the 31st May 2021, settled status has been granted to 2.75 million people.

Pre-settled status is also available to EU citizens who resided in the UK for under five years before the end of 2020. This option has so far been granted to around 2.28 million people. Those with pre-settled status can apply for settled status in future, however, their application is not guaranteed to be successful.

Within Scotland, over 263,220 applications have been submitted by EU citizens to remain in the country, with 141,220 people granted settled status and 102,000 granted pre-settled status.

Countries with the most significant number of applicants include Poland with 975,000 applications and Romania with 918,000. Immigration Minister Kevin Foster assured that any applications not submitted by next week’s deadline would still be safe as their rights are protected in law. Those individuals will receive a 28-day notice from immigration enforcement officials, informing them to conclude their settled status application.

Maike Bohn, the co-founder of the EU citizens’ organisation the 3million, reacted to this statement, highlighting that those who had not applied within the deadline were unlawful and risked losing work, housing and free health care. Mr Bohn also commented that the Home Office had revised their requirements to border officials following reports that EU citizens had experienced recently extended delays at the UK border.

Former EU vaccine chief says the UK has become isolated since Brexit

The EU’s former vaccine chief, Thierry Breton, has stated that Brexit has left the UK weak and isolated, commenting that it was hard to see any concrete benefits. Breton’s statements were far from the recent claims of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the EU’s single market commissioner, who stated that the promised outcomes of Brexit are currently “far from reality”.

Speaking on the UK’s economy, Mr Breton highlighted that UK gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 9.9% in 2020 compared to 5% in Germany, 8.3% in France and 8.9% in Italy. Although the UK economy is seeing a bounce back during 2021 following the reopening of non-essential businesses, Brexit will undoubtedly impact long-term investor confidence.

It was also commented that if the UK remained in the EU, it could have benefited from the EU’s recovery plan, potentially receiving around GBP 45 billion. Mr Breton highlighted that it’s difficult to see how one country on its own can be more successful than many countries pulling together collectively.

Speaking of the UK’s new trade deal with Australia, Mr Breton stated that it was merely a rehash of their existing trade deal under the EU. It was highlighted that UK imports and exports with Australia are worth GBP 14 billion, although Mr Breton commented that under the EU, they would be worth GBP 660 billion.

Mr Breton inferred that the UK’s most crucial trade deal with the EU is on the verge of danger due to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson ‘not honouring his engagements with Northern Ireland’. Trade between the UK and the EU has seen a significant decline this year due to structural issues relating to the UK’s exit from the EU, causing Mr Breton to question the benefits of the decision further.

Five years on, Brexit is still very much dividing individuals and nations with varied opinions on how the vote to leave the EU will impact the UK long-term.