With little ado, a divided United Kingdom casts off into the Brexit unknown

A clockface of the Elizabeth Tower at the Houses of Parliament, more commonly known as Big Ben, shows 2300 GMT, as Britain formally exits the EU, in London, Britain December 31, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

January 4, 2021

By Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom began the New Year outside the European Union’s orbit on Friday after ending a tempestuous 48-year liaison with the European project, its most significant geopolitical shift since the loss of empire.

Brexit took effect in substance on Thursday at the strike of midnight in Brussels, or 2300 London time (GMT), at the end of a transition period that largely maintained the status quo for 11 months after Britain formally left the EU on Jan. 31, 2020.

“This is an amazing moment for this country,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 56, said in his New Year’s Eve message. “We have our freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it.”

For five years, the frenzied gyrations of the Brexit crisis dominated European affairs, buffeted the sterling markets and tarnished the United Kingdom’s reputation as a reliable pillar of Western stability.

Supporters cast Brexit as the dawn of a newly independent “global Britain”, but the drama has weakened the bonds that bind England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

After all the vitriol, one of the most significant events in European history since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 passed with little fanfare: the United Kingdom slipped away, shrouded in the silence of the COVID-19 crisis.

With gatherings banned in London and most of the country due to soaring rates of infection, there were few outward displays of emotion when the Great Bell known as Big Ben tolled 11 through a scaffold on Thursday night.

As EU leaders and citizens bade farewell, Johnson said there would be no bonfire of regulations to build a “bargain basement Dickensian Britain” and that the country would remain the “quintessential European civilization”.

But Johnson, the face of the Brexit campaign, has been short on detail about what he wants to build with Britain’s “independence” – or how to do it while borrowing record amounts to pay for the COVID-19 crisis.

His 80-year-old father, Stanley Johnson, who had voted for Britain to remain in the bloc, said he was applying for a French passport, which would give him rights and freedoms in Europe now inaccessible to most Britons.


In the June 23, 2016, referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 52%, backed Brexit while 16.1 million, or 48%, backed staying in the bloc. Few have changed their minds since. England and Wales voted out but Scotland and Northern Ireland voted in.

“Scotland will be back soon, Europe. Keep the light on,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Thursday.

The referendum revealed a United Kingdom polarised about much more than the European Union, and fuelled soul searching about everything from secession and immigration to capitalism, the legacy of empire and what it now means to be British.

Leaving was once the far-fetched dream of a motley crew of “eurosceptics” on the fringes of British politics: the UK joined in 1973 as “the sick man of Europe”. Two decades ago British leaders were arguing whether to join the euro. They never did.

But the turmoil of the euro zone crisis, attempts to integrate the EU further, fears about mass immigration and discontent with leaders in London helped Brexiteers win the referendum with a message of patriotic, if vague, hope.

“We see a global future for ourselves,” said Johnson who won power in 2019 and, against the odds, clinched a Brexit divorce treaty and a trade deal, as well as the biggest Conservative parliamentary majority since Margaret Thatcher.

Supporters see Brexit as an escape from a doomed Franco-German project that has stagnated while the United States and China surged. Opponents say Brexit will weaken the West, further reduce Britain’s global clout, and make it poorer and less cosmopolitan.

French President Emmanuel Macron, in a New Year’s Eve broadcast, said Britain would remain a friend and an ally but Brexit was the product of “many lies and false promises”.

European leaders and many Britons opposed to Brexit have long accused Johnson of caricaturing the EU and falsely blaming Britain’s problems on Brussels, while making exaggerated claims about the potential benefits of leaving the bloc.


Fuelled partly by Brexit which many Scots oppose and partly by the poor handling of COVID-19 by Johnson’s government, support for Scottish independence has risen, threatening the 300-year-old political union between England and Scotland.

Sturgeon has said that if her Scottish National Party wins elections to Edinburgh’s semi-autonomous parliament scheduled for May, an independence referendum should take place quickly.

With the United Kingdom now out of the Single Market and European Customs Union, there is almost certain to be some disruption at borders. More red tape means more cost for those importing and exporting goods.

After haggling over a trade deal for months, the British government published 70 pages of case studies just hours before its departure, advising companies on what rules to follow at the new UK-EU border.

The Port of Dover expects volumes to drop off in early January. The most worrisome period, it says, will be in mid- to late January when volumes pick up again.

At the freight terminal in southern England giving access to the Channel Tunnel, traffic volumes were low on Friday, as usual on the first day of the year. For the small number of trucks that went through to France, new procedures worked well, said John Keefe, director of public affairs at operator Eurotunnel.

“At 11 o’clock last night, the first truck rolled through the new procedures, just as quickly as the truck in front of it had rolled through when there weren’t any,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Estelle Shirbon in London, Ben Makori and Yann Tessier in Folkestone, Clement Rossignol and John Chalmers in Brussels)

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Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton receives a knighthood in the United Kingdom New Year’s Honours List

Motor racing great Lewis Hamilton has won just about every title and record there is in Formula One.

Now he has another, royal-appointed title to go along with his sporting achievements after the seven-times F1 world champion was awarded a knighthood in Queen Elizabeth II’s New Year’s Honours List published on Wednesday.

The 35-year-old this year became the most successful F1 driver of all time after equalling Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s record seven titles and breaking the German’s record of 91 grand prix race wins.

The sport’s only black driver, who grew up in social housing as the grandson of immigrants from the Caribbean, Sir Lewis has also used his profile to campaign for diversity and speak out against racial injustice.

The Monaco resident’s presence on the overseas and international list, rather than a main one with many rewarded for service to public health in a pandemic, was seen as a reflection of his tax status.

The Daily Mail newspaper said Prime Minister Boris Johnson had “bent the rules” to get around the tax requirements for domestic awards.


The citation referred to Sir Lewis’s sporting record and his “charitable and philanthropic contributions in the UK and overseas”.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins, famed for his work on movies such as “1917”, “Shawshank Redemption” and “Skyfall”, was also knighted on the same overseas list.

Hamilton’s supporters have long felt his achievements have not been sufficiently recognised at home and they expressed delight at the Mercedes driver joining a select group of sporting sirs.

“Lewis is a true giant of our sport and his influence is huge both in and out of a car,” said newly-appointed Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali, a former Ferrari team principal.

“What he has achieved is phenomenal, with still more to come.”

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff hailed Hamilton, who won his first title with McLaren in 2008, as the most successful British sportsperson of his era.

The knighthood, he added, showed that Hamilton — often seen as a polarising figure — was “now receiving the recognition he has earned during a career of unparalleled success in motorsport”.

“The UK can be very proud to have a champion and ambassador of the calibre of Sir Lewis Hamilton,” added Wolff.

One of the records that Lewis Hamilton has broken this year is the mark for career Formula One pole positions with 98.(AFP/DPPI: Florent Gooden)

Sir Lewis is the fourth F1 driver to be knighted after the late Australian Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss and triple champion Jackie Stewart and the only one to have received the award while still racing.

Cycling’s Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 metres gold medallist Mo Farah, England cricketer Alastair Cook and twice Wimbledon tennis champion Andy Murray have also been knighted as active sportsmen.



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Strains on the United Kingdom – A border inside the UK brings Northern Ireland closer to the republic | Britain

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This is how the final agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union remained at the last minute

6 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

After months of negotiations and delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, the European Union and the United Kingdom finally reached a final agreement to specify the terms of the so-called Brexit. Although the separation became official on January 31, 2020, it was agreed that the rest of the year would be a transition period to refine details about their future relationship, especially in commercial matters.

The deadline for reaching a resolution would expire on December 31 and it was feared that there would be no agreement . But almost at the last moment, the European bloc and the British government resolved the most difficult issues. They will no longer have to abide by the terms of the World Trade Organization (WTO) , which would have meant new tariffs, regulatory controls and a lot of paperwork.

The news was released on December 24, as if it were a Christmas present for those involved.

“The UK remains a trusted partner. We will work shoulder to shoulder to meet our common global goals. But now let’s turn the page and look to the future. To all Europeans I say: it is time to leave Brexit behind. Our future is made in Europe ” , expressed the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, through Twitter.

The final document is 1,200 pages long, detailing issues that will have an impact on the daily lives of the inhabitants of both territories.

Here is a summary of the key points in the post Brexit deal:


There will be no additional charges on goods (tariffs) or limits on the amount that can be traded (quotas) between the UK and the EU from 1 January.

There will be additional controls at the borders, such as security checks and customs declarations. Therefore, companies that depend on transporting goods to and from the EU will need to be prepared.

For services, including financing (very important for the UK economy), the picture is still unclear. Services will lose their automatic right of access , but the UK said the agreement “blocks market access in virtually all sectors .”

There will no longer be automatic recognition of certificates for professionals such as doctors, nurses and architects.


The UK becomes an independent coastal state and can decide on access to its waters and fishing grounds.

However, EU vessels will be able to fish in British waters for at least a few years.

25% of the value of your current catch will now be available to UK fishing vessels. There will be a transition period of five and a half years for that to be phased in.

After the transition period, the UK and the EU will periodically negotiate access to each other’s waters.


UK citizens will need a visa for stays of more than 90 days in the EU in a 180 day period and there will be additional border controls for British travelers.

European Union pet passports will no longer be valid.

British travelers will still be able to access emergency medical care in the EU. European Health Insurance Cards (TSE) will remain valid until they expire. According to the UK government, they will need to be replaced by a ‘UK Global Health Insurance Card’ .

In mobile telephony, both agreed to operate with “fair and transparent rates for international roaming .” However, nothing prevents charging British travelers more for using their phone in the EU and vice versa.


The UK will no longer participate in the EU Erasmus exchange program, which helps students to pursue part of their academic training in other countries. In its place will be a new program named after mathematician Alan Turing.

Students from universities in Northern Ireland will continue to participate in Erasmus, by agreement with the Irish government.


The UK will no longer have automatic access to key databases, but will be able to access it upon request.

The country will no longer be a member of Europol, the EU police body, but will have a presence at its headquarters. This will be a similar arrangement to the one the United States currently has.

European court of justice

The UK will no longer be bound by rulings issued by the European Court of Justice, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

With information from BBC.com .

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Singapore and Denmark confirm cases of new COVID-19 variant strain spreading rapidly in the United Kingdom

Singapore and Denmark have confirmed their first cases of the new coronavirus variant found spreading rapidly in parts of the United Kingdom.

Singapore has confirmed one case, while 11 others in quarantine have returned preliminarily positive results.

Denmark has identified 33 infections with the new strain.

“There is currently no evidence that the B117 strain is circulating in the community,” Singapore’s health ministry said late on Wednesday, referring to the new, potentially more infectious UK strain.

Singapore has been conducting viral genomic sequencing for confirmed COVID-19 cases who arrived from Europe recently.

The patient with the new variant came to Singapore from the UK on December 6, had been quarantined on arrival and tested positive on December 8.

All her close contacts had been placed on quarantine, and had tested negative at the end of their quarantine period.

Meanwhile, The State Serum Institute (SSI), Denmark’s infectious disease authority, said 33 cases had been found in COVID-19 tests carried out between November 14 and December 14.

Denmark has so far analysed genetic material from 7,805 positive tests in that period, meaning the variant was found in about 0.4 per cent of the infections.

“The latest sequencing results indicate that there is societal infection in Denmark with the new English virus variant, albeit at a very low level,” the SSI said.

Preliminary information did not suggest the 33 people who contracted the variant had any connection to England or had been travelling in other countries, the SSI said.

More than 40 countries, including Denmark and Singapore, have suspended travel with the United Kingdom, where the new variant of the virus — thought to be more transmissible than others circulating — has spread quickly in southern England, including London.


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Could Covid-19 and Brexit lead to Sotland’s exit from the United Kingdom?

Polls suggest that support for Scottish independence has never been stronger. Could this be the end of the Union?

Our Scotland correspondent Ciaran Jenkins has been talking to voters who previously rejected independence to see if the tide is turning, and what might be behind their change of heart.

Sources: ITV, BBC, Twitter (@ruthdavidson).


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The streaming kingdom – Disney strikes streaming-TV gold | Business

DISNEY PROMISED investors in spring 2019 that a new video-streaming service would win between 60m and 90m subscribers by 2024. Disney+ has outperformed that forecast spectacularly, hitting its five-year subscriber target in just eight months. In doing so it is fulfilling the digital-transformation plan set in motion three years ago by Bob Iger, Disney’s longtime boss, now its executive chairman.

Marketing muscle, crucial to success, has been backed up by “The Mandalorian”, a space western inspired by “Star Wars”. Such is its popularity that Disney was late meeting demand for a plush-toy of its baby Yoda character. The pandemic added a turbocharge, dashing fears that Disney+ and other new streaming services, like HBO Max and Apple TV+, might struggle to attract time-starved consumers. Lockdowns mean extra hours to while away, notes Tim Mulligan of MIDiA Research.

Amid school closures Disney+ has been as trusty a baby-sitter as baby Yoda’s nurse droid. Of all the new streaming services Disney+, which launched in western Europe in March, just as lockdowns began, is the clear winner. Even so it has not touched the leader, Netflix, which has 195m subscribers worldwide and over 70m in America alone (see chart).

Disney’s other businesses have suffered because of the pandemic. Shuttered theme parks, closed cinemas and cancelled sporting events have taken their toll. In August Disney said covid-19 wiped out $3.5bn of operating profits at its parks, experiences and products division in three months. The company is expected to report another quarterly loss on November 12th, after The Economist went to press. Yet the streaming service’s subscriber gains have helped shield the firm’s share price. It has fallen but by far less than its peers.

Disney+’s rapid success also underlines a doubt about the firm—whether Mr Iger’s choice of successor was correct. The favourite for the top job was Kevin Mayer, who designed and launched Disney+. Mr Iger chose Bob Chapek, a talented operating executive who had been running theme parks. “Given the runaway success of Disney+ it is even harder to understand how the theme park and home-entertainment executive got the top job,” says Rich Greenfield of LightShed Partners, a research firm. Mr Mayer left Disney this summer.

Will Mr Chapek now bet heavily on Disney+? The firm as a whole lavishes nearly $30bn a year on original and acquired content but this year set aside only $1bn for Disney+. Netflix spends $15bn a year. The Disney service’s rich library is enough to keep under-tens engaged but it may lose subscribers unless it regularly offers original grown-up fare. Third Point, an activist investor, wants Disney to stop its dividend and spend the $3bn a year on Disney+.

Disney could do more than that if it went “all-in” on streaming, dropping its current system in which, for example, big-budget films go exclusively to cinemas, and putting everything it makes onto Disney+ at once. The service could then spend as much as Netflix and raise its price from $6.99 per month to over $10.

This would make for a huge global business but there is a danger that it would swiftly cannibalise the existing parts of Disney’s empire. A more likely course is that Disney will move new content more rapidly onto Disney+. It could also combine Disney+ with Hulu, a separate and successful video-streaming service the firm took control of last year.

Disney is expected to announce in December that it will spend a lot more on content for the service. All eyes will be on whether Mr Chapek seems as tuned-in to streaming’s bright future as Mr Iger was.

This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline “The streaming kingdom”

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Hermit kingdom – North Korea is lonelier than ever | Asia

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Is a Renaissance in India-United Kingdom Relations in the Cards? – The Diplomat

According to Indian media reports, an India-United Kingdom military logistics agreement is in the final stages of preparation. Such as agreement – which India has with several countries, including Australia, Japan, and the United States – will allow both militaries to formalize sharing of services and supplies, including fuel, and facilities, leading to greater exchanges, more frequent joint exercises, and smoother port calls. While largely routine, these agreements have long carried symbolic weight for India, a country traditionally reluctant to enter formal military arrangements with other, especially Western, powers.

As some have already argued, for the United Kingdom such an agreement is equally laden with symbolism. As the U.K. firmly separates itself from the European Union come the first day of 2021, it increasingly seeks to project itself as a player with global interests and reach, a stated goal of the Boris Johnson government. By entering the Indo-Pacific fray – and deeper ties with India is a crucial component of this endeavor – the U.K. can position itself as a major power outside Europe. Such a move from London will also signal New Delhi it is no longer beholden to Pakistan — a function both of history as well as domestic politics, by virtue of a large, influential diaspora – or China.

But beyond symbolism lies the question of substance. As I recently wrote in these pages, it is unclear what India seeks out of umpteen maritime arrangements when, substantially, its naval reach remains limited and the military rationale for a greater push toward the seas unclear. While many – correctly – argue that logistics agreements allow the Indian Navy access to ports around the world, that only becomes meaningful if there is a concrete military strategy, one that holds in peace and war, underpinning such visits, beyond signaling to the world that India, too, is a global power.

Consider this. While the texts of the other logistics agreements India has signed so far remain classified, that is not the case when it comes to its “Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement” (ACSA) with Japan. And from that document, we can clearly glean its scope, in terms of activities covered, is fairly circumscribed with no intrinsic guarantee India will have access to Japanese ports in event of, say, war with China. Even after the controversial 2014 re-interpretation of Article 9 of Japan’s constitution (which effectively commits the country to pacifism in perpetuity), it is unlikely the country will be involved in an India-China clash. (At the time of announcing his cabinet’s decision to re-interpret that article, then Prime Minister Abe Shinzo had declared Japan would not “become caught up in wars in order to defend foreign countries,” with the new commitment to collective defense kicking in only if Japan’s own survival was at stake.)

If the India-Japan ACSA is a faithful template for all other logistics agreements India has, it is clear these are all – despite media hysteria – peacetime agreements, perhaps with marginal signaling value even though they highlight India’s deepening political compact with the other parties.

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Coming back to the U.K., the last four years have found London floundering, its political system in utter chaos despite Johnson and his predecessor’s brave face and boisterous pronouncements. Soon after the 2016 Brexit, sections in New Delhi and London became tremendously excited about the possibility of an India-U.K. free trade agreement — an idea which, while remaining on the table, is unlikely to materialize any time soon. (Faithful readers of The Diplomat will recollect India’s familiar hesitations and demands when it comes to free trade agreements in general.)

What direction the U.K. eventually settles on as a steady state, both when it comes to economics as well as strategy, won’t be a matter of policy ideation today, however grand. It’d be shaped by its material reality and attendant compulsions tomorrow. In effect, the United Kingdom’s global role will be determined by three simultaneous pressures: the U.S.-China strategic competition, the economic impact of the pandemic, as well as the long-term effects of its severance from the EU, both political as well as economic. Given we don’t know how the combined effect of all three will shape that country, it is best to hold our horses about the future of India-U.K. relations.

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