Exit day is Friday (12pm CET, 11pm UK time)
10 immediate changes (credit – online article of this title at ukandeu.ac.uk) – my summary
(1) The UK will no longer be an EU member state
The EU will officially become of a union of 27 rather than 28. If the UK wants to be an EU member again it would have to reapply and negotiate to rejoin.
(2) The UK will no longer have any MEPs
UK MEPs, elected in May 2019, will no longer sit in the European Parliament. Around a third of the UK’s 73 seats will be redistributed to other countries. The overall size of the Parliament will be reduced.
(3) The UK will no longer have a commissioner
Julian King was the last UK commissioner. The UK did not nominate a new candidate to the European Commission that started on 1 December, despite requests from the Commission to do so.
(4) The UK Prime Minister will stop attending European Council summits
These summits—the meetings of the heads of state and government of the EU—have become a fixture of the EU calendar and tend to be the most high-profile of all EU activities.
The UK Prime Minister will no longer have an invitation to attend, except on rare occasions where a EU-UK meeting is tacked on to a summit.
In fact, the European Council in October was the current UK prime minister’s first and last European Council meeting as prime minister.
(5) UK ministers and officials will not attend other Council meetings
It’s not just the prime minister that has been going to meetings in Brussels. For the last 47 years, UK ministers (or their officials) have regularly attended Council meetings.
Last week, Sajid Javid went to the UK’s last Economic and Financial Affairs Council. In early January Dominic Raab joined other EU foreign ministers at a meeting to discuss Iran.
The Withdrawal Agreement allows for the possibility that the UK could be invited to attend meetings in exceptional circumstances, if the topic is relevant to the UK-EU relationship.
Chris Pincher, the UK’s Europe minister, attended the UK’s last Council meeting on 28 January.
(6) UK judges will no longer sit at the European Court of Justice
British judges—Eleanor Sharpston, Ian Stewart Forrester and Christopher Vajda—will no longer be members of the two courts that form the Court of Justice of the European Union: the Court of Justice and the General Court.
Rulings on the application and interpretation of EU law, which will still apply to the UK in the transition period, and in some cases beyond, will be taken with no input from British judges.
(7) EU law will apply to the UK, not as a member state but via the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement (an international treaty)
EU law will continue to apply in the UK during the transition period.
However, it will be determined by the UK’s obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement, rather than as a Member State.
The 2020 UK Withdrawal Agreement Act effectively copies over the effects of the European Communities Act for the transition period to ensure legal continuity.
[note : I have a new category for EU Law in UK 2021 because we are waiting clarification on long tail implementation, law by law, of particularly 2019 EU instruments]
(8) The UK will be able to start trade deals with other countries
From 11pm on 31 January 2020, the UK will be able to negotiate, sign and ratify trade agreements with other countries. Implementation will be after the transition period.
While the UK in transition, the EU has asked other countries the EU has trade deals with already to continue to treat the UK as a member state for trade purposes. The intention is that these other countries should agree to the status quo during the transition period.
The UK has already agreed to roll over the EU’s existing trade deals with around 20 countries and trade blocs, and it has held preparatory talks with others which it needs to complete by the time transition ends.
But it can also start formal negotiations with other countries with whom the EU has not had a deal before, something it can’t do as an EU member.
(9) EU member states may refuse UK extradition requests for their citizens
Under the European Arrest Warrant, member states must comply with requests to arrest and/or extradite individuals who are wanted in other member states, with only some limited grounds for refusal.
This includes a time limit of 60 days to comply and member states cannot refuse to extradite their own nationals, except in limited circumstances.
The Withdrawal Agreement allows both EU member states and the UK to refuse to comply with such requests from the start of the transition period.
(10) Formal interactions with EU will take place through the UK-EU Joint Committee
While the UK was a member state it had a myriad of formal interactions with other member states and EU officials within the EU’s many institutions, bodies and agencies.
That ceases at 11pm on 31 January 2020.
Instead, a new body will be set up—the UK-EU Joint Committee—whose main job will be to oversee the implementation and application of the Withdrawal Agreement. This is of particular importance in Northern Ireland.
This will likely also become the body through which the UK and the EU manage any future trade agreement, as well as other treaties reached on matters like security and police co-operation.