After back and forth discussions between the UK and the European Union, they finally confirmed a last-minute deal just before Christmas. The new agreement became law on the 1st of January 2021, although the effect of the new Brexit deal began weeks before and have continued into the new year.
While the implications of Brexit are not completely clear, there are some topics at the forefront which have occurred as a direct result of the UK's separation from the European Union.
Before a Brexit deal was confirmed, there were significant border delays at major transport hubs. However, initially, this was put down to Christmas and stockpiling and border closures as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. However, in the second week of January, major lorry pileups are still taking place near British borders, while ministers warn of further disruption, especially for deliveries coming through the Dover-Calais route.
The disruption near the borders is already affecting trade and is only getting worse, as there are now 20% more lorries passing through the border on a daily basis. Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, made a statement on behalf of the UK government stating "we have to redouble our efforts to communicate the precise paperwork that's required, in order to make sure that trade can flow freely."
One of the major points of Brexit was the end of free movement, which means any EEA and Swiss Nationals must re-apply to receive a new immigration status within the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme. Many have argued against the changes, stating that without migrants, the many industries will suffer, including the healthcare sector, as 170,000 in this industry are foreign nationals. This includes NHS staff, who are already struggling with staff absences and even deaths during the pandemic; therefore, they cannot afford to lose staff at such a critical time.
The government have offered free visa extensions to highly-skilled workers in health and social care; however, anyone classed as a low-skilled worker must apply and pay for a new visa under the new points-based immigration system. This system applies to both non-EEA and EEA citizens who must meet specific criteria and earn enough points in order to obtain a visa. Edinburgh MP, Christine Jardine has put forward a bill for all health and social care workers to receive indefinite leave to remain status, which could prevent the stress of expensive and long-winded visa applications if successful.
Both of these issues are ongoing and are expected to worsen until final decisions and resolutions are made for both immigration and trade. There are also further negotiations and decisions to be made, which could either make or break the relationship between both parties. For now, the Brexit agreement is fairly new and only time will tell if the UK government made the right decision in leaving the EU.