First lorry passes through Eurotunnel into France moments after UK leaves single market

a group of people standing in front of a bus (C) Provided by The Independent

The first lorry passed through the new customs border into France just minutes after the UK’s historic departure from the single market.   Driver Slavi Ivanov Shumeykov smiled and waved as his HGV was processed by officials late on New Year’s Eve.   His Eddie Stobart vehicle went through Eurotunnel controls in Folkestone, Kent, just after 11pm.  

The first arrivals on the shuttle from France following the end of the Brexit transition period were expected at about 12.23am.  

a man riding on the back of a truck: The first lorry, driven by Slavi Ivanov Shumeykov, loads onto Le Shuttle at the Eurotunnel in Folkestone, Kent, after the UK leaves the single market and customs unionPA (C) Provided by The Independent The first lorry, driven by Slavi Ivanov Shumeykov, loads onto Le Shuttle at the Eurotunnel in Folkestone, Kent, after the UK leaves the single market and customs unionPA

Scenes in Dover have been quiet as many hauliers have been staying away to avoid being the first to test new border controls.   There had been fears of disruption in Kent as the UK counted down to 11pm and the end of the Brexit transition period, following chaos on the roads last week.   However, nightmarish visions of miles-long lorry queues may not become a reality as businesses seek to avoid crossing the Channel altogether and customs officials take a “flexible” approach.  

UK officials say they are confident the mechanisms in place are ready to go.   Gallery: Brexit timeline (Photo Services) 

Back in January 2013, then-British Prime Minister David Cameron declared that he is in favour of an in-out referendum, sometime in the future, to create a new settlement for the U.K. in the European Union (EU). It set in motion a series of negotiations between the two bodies over the former’s withdrawal from the latter, popularly known as Brexit.

We take a look at a timeline of the negotiations and some of Brexit’s most important developments.

April 14, 2015: Manifesto launch

Led by Cameron (pictured), the Conservative Party launched its manifesto for the 2015 General Election, which pledged a “real change in our relationship with the European Union.” The party also declared it will hold an in-out referendum “before the end of 2017.” The Conservatives eventually went on to win the election.


22, 2016: Referendum date announced

In the House of Commons, Cameron announced the date for the EU referendum to be June 23, 2016. The government also published their policy paper titled “The best of both worlds: the United Kingdom’s special status in a reformed European Union.”

June 23, 2016: UK holds referendum

In the referendum on EU membership, the majority of voters, 51.9 percent, wanted to leave the EU, while 48.1 percent voted to remain. Cameron announced his intention to resign the next day.

July 13, 2016: A new prime minister

Theresa May became the new British Prime Minister and assumed office on this day.


3, 2016: High Court passes judgement in Gina Miller case

Earlier in 2016, activist Gina Miller (pictured) had brought a case against the British government, saying it doesn’t have the authority to implement Brexit without an approval from the Parliament. On this day, the High Court found the case in favour of the claimants, enabling the Parliament to play a key role in Brexit. The government said it would appeal against the decision.

It later lost this appeal.

March 29, 2017: May triggers Article 50

The prime minister triggered Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, or the Maastricht Treaty, which meant that the U.K. started a two-year countdown to leave the EU.

April 29, 2017: EU-27 leaders meet

EU-27 (European Union countries except for the U.K.) members met for the first time since the triggering of Article 50, adopting the guidelines for Brexit negotiation ahead.
Meanwhile, the U.K. government released the “Northern Ireland and Ireland Position Paper,” which clarified how the nation planned to handle the situation of Northern Ireland and Ireland in light of Brexit.
(Pictured) European Council President Donald Tusk speaks at a conference after the EU-27 meet.

June 8, 2017: General Election

The General Election resulted in a hung Parliament.

May formed a minority government as the Conservatives won more seats, but would heavily rely on support from the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland for key votes.

June 19, 2017: First round of negotiations

The first round of negotiations between the U.K. and EU began on this day.
(Pictured) EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (R) offers his hand to Britain’s Brexit negotiator David Davis during their meeting in Brussels, Belgium.


20, 2017: New headquarters for EU agencies

The EU-27 nations decided upon new seats for two EU agencies, which were based in the U.K. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) was moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands (pictured), while the European Banking Authority (EBA) moved to Paris, France.


28, 2018: Draft for withdrawal agreement published

The European Commission published the draft titled “Withdrawal Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom,” based on reports from the first phase of negotiations.
The draft proposed that Northern Ireland would act as a “customs territory” of the EU. May responded that no prime minister could “ever agree” with it and added that such a move would “undermine the U.K. common market and threaten the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”

March 29, 2018: May visits each UK nation

Marking one year to go until Brexit, May paid a visit to each nation of the U.K., promising that only such a Brexit deal will be delivered which works for every community and also protects the integrity of the nation.

July 6, 2018: Cabinet meets at Chequers

The British Cabinet met at Chequers, the country house of the prime minister, to hash out their differences and reach a collective position for future Brexit negotiations.

It was decided that the proposals would be published as White Paper in the following days. While the Cabinet formally endorsed May’s idea for a U.K.-EU Free Trade Area, it questioned the Government’s proposed future relationship with the EU.

July 9, 2018: David Davis and Boris Johnson resign

Not happy with how the U.K. was “giving away too much and too easily” to the EU, Brexit Secretary David Davis resigned, along with Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Secretary Boris Johnson. Dominic Raab was appointed as the new Brexit Secretary.


23, 2018: No-deal notices

On this day, the Government published the first set of technical notices on how to prepare in case the U.K. leaves the EU with no deal. Raab also delivered a speech on no-deal planning.


19-20, 2018: Summit in Salzburg

At an informal summit of EU leaders in Salzburg, Austria, May gave a speech on the latest developments. The main component of her plan for a post-Brexit relationship was strongly opposed, leading her to warn that she would walk away from the discussions if no deal could be reached.


20, 2018: People’s Vote March takes place

Around 700,000 people participated in a massive People’s Vote March to demand a referendum on the final terms of any Brexit deal.


14, 2018: Terms of Withdrawal Agreement are negotiated

Negotiations were held between the U.K. and EU to reach a contract in principle on the Withdrawal Agreement. It established the terms of the country’s departure on March 29, 2019.


15, 2018: Raab resigns

Citing his opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement, Raab resigned from the Cabinet, along with other ministers such as Brexit Undersecretary Suella Braverman and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey.


22, 2018: May says deal within grasp

In a short statement outside 10 Downing Street, May said, “The British people want this to be settled. They want a good deal that sets us on course for a brighter future.

That deal is within our grasp and I am determined to deliver it.”


10, 2018: May pulls final vote

While addressing the House of Commons on exiting the EUion, the prime minister announced a delay to the Meaningful Vote (which ratifies the Withdrawal Agreement), which was planned to be held the following day, saying, “If we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow, the deal would be rejected by a significant margin.”


29, 2018: Ferry contract sparks concerns

British firm Seaborne Freight was awarded a GBP13.8 million contract by the Government to run extra ferries between Ramsgate, England, and Ostend, Belgium, if a no-deal Brexit takes place. The move raised major concerns as the company had never run a ferry service before.


15, 2019: Meaningful Vote takes place

The Government suffered a record defeat in the Meaningful Vote on its plans for Brexit, with 432 votes against and 202 in favour.

March 12, 2019: Second Meaningful Vote takes place

May and her Government faced a defeat yet again, as the second Meaningful Vote saw 391 against and 242 for.

March 13-14, 2019: MPs rule out no-deal Brexit

Marking a huge blow to May, the Members of Parliament voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit. They also asked the government to seek permission from the EU to extend Article 50, which meant extending the deadline for departure.

March 16, 2019: Pro-Brexit march takes place

Brexit Leader Nigel Farage (C, in green overcoat) organised a 435 kilometers (270 miles march from Sunderland to London, demanding the exit of Britain from the EU.

March 21, 2019: Extension dates offered

The EU agreed a short extension to the Brexit deadline, offering the date of May 22, 2019 (if May can get her Brexit deal passed) and April 12, 2019 (if not).

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned that the nation may face a national emergency over Brexit.

March 23, 2019: Put it to the People March takes place

Nearly a million protesters took to the streets in Central London, demanding that the people must be given a final say on Brexit.

March 27, 2019: May offers to resign

May told Conservative lawmakers that she would step down if Parliament approved her plan for withdrawal. “I know there is a desire for a new approach, and new leadership, in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way of that,” the prime minister said. She did not specify when she would step down.

March 29, 2019: ‘Brexit Day’

On the day the U.K. was supposed to withdraw from the EU, Parliament rejected May’s withdrawal agreement a third time. The government lost by 344 votes to 286.

In response to the vote, the EU planned an emergency summit on April 10 to discuss its next move. 

April 2, 2019: Alternatives dismissed in indicative voting

Following the government’s failure to pass May’s withdrawal agreement through Parliament a third time, a second series of indicative votes by MPs resulted in the proposed Brexit alternatives – including a ‘customs union’ relationship with the bloc, a ‘common market 2.0’, and a second referendum – being rejected. Such an outcome means increasing government pressure to receive Parliamentary backing on May’s deal, or to seek a long Brexit extension to avoid a no-deal scenario. (Pictured) A Westminster City Council employee sweeps the street in front of 10 Downing Street on April 1, 2019.

April 5, 2019: May requests further delay

With the House of Commons voting by 313 votes to 312 – a majority of one – on Labour member Yvette Cooper’s bill that the prime minister must ask the EU for a further extension to Brexit, Theresa May wrote to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, seeking an additional delay until June 30, 2019.

The extension would ostensibly provide the U.K. more time to move beyond the current Parliamentary impasse over Brexit.  (Pictured) A combination photo shows a copy of May’s letter to Donald Tusk, seeking an additional Brexit delay, in London on April 5, 2019.

April 11, 2019: ‘Flexible’ extension approved until Halloween

After May proposed a delay of June 30, 2019 to EU leaders, a longer extension of up to Oct.

31, 2019 was agreed by the EU27 just 48 hours before the U.K. was scheduled to leave the bloc without a deal. This longer extension includes a break clause allowing the U.K. to leave before October if a withdrawal agreement is passed through the House of Commons.

While the delay means Britain avoids a hard Brexit in April, the country must now participate in European elections in May.  (Pictured) European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk hold a news conference in Brussels after EU leaders discuss Brexit on April 11, 2019. 

May 24, 2019: May announces resignation

The British prime minister announced that she will step down from her post on June 7, 2019. “It is now clear to me that it is in the best interest of the U.K. for a new PM to lead that effort,” she said.

July 23, 2019: Boris Johnson announced as Britain’s next prime minister

The Tory politician defeated rival Jeremy Hunt to become the new leader of the Conservative party and the next prime minister of the U.K. by two thirds of the Conservative Party vote. Johnson stated his priorities were ‘to deliver Brexit and unite the country’.

Notably, he has previously refused to rule out a no-deal Brexit scenario.


25, 2019: Johnson discusses trade deal with Donald Trump

The British prime minister held talks with U.S. President Donald Trump during a breakfast meeting at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France. Jonson said, “There is an opportunity to do a great free trade deal with the United States.

The president is very gung-ho about that and so am I. They want to do it within a year, I’d love to do it within a year, but that’s a very fast timetable.” Further, talking about Brexit he said a part of the bill would be withheld if there was no deal.


2, 2019: Johnson proposes final Brexit offer

Johnson proposed his final Brexit offer to take the U.K. out from the EU by the end of the month. His latest proposal involves taking Northern Ireland out of the customs union – making checks and controls at the border mandatory – which is expected to have a severe effect on the country’s economy.

At the Conservative Party conference, he said: “Voters are desperate for us to focus on other priorities… What people want, what ‘Leavers’ want, what ‘Remainers’ want, what the whole world wants is to move on. Let’s get Brexit done – we can, we must and we will.” He also added that if Belgium doesn’t engage with the proposal, there won’t be any further talks.

He said: “The EU is obliged by EU law only to negotiate with member state governments, they cannot negotiate with Parliament, and this government will not negotiate a delay.”


17, 2019: New Brexit deal agreed with the EU

Johnson declared via Twitter that a new deal had been secured with the EU; “we’ve got a great new deal that takes back control — now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday so we can move on to other priorities like the cost of living, the NHS, violent crime and our environment.” The president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured), also confirmed via Twitter that a deal had been agreed; “it’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions.” The new deal will still need to pass through the House of Commons, however, before the U.K. can formally leave the European bloc. 


19, 2019: Debate and vote on new Brexit deal

The British Parliament sat on a Saturday for the first time in 37 years to debate and vote on Johnson’s new Brexit deal. If the amendment is passed, the prime minister will write to the EU for a three-month extension to Brexit. However, if it fails, an election will likely follow.


19, 2019: Government requests Brexit extension

The British government requested the EU for a delay in Brexit after the House of Commons voted 322-306 against Johnson’s no-deal departure set for Oct.

31. Johnson, in a signed letter addressed to the European Council President Donald Tusk, however, presented his argument against the extension. Another vote on the Brexit deal may happen on Oct.

21 if Speaker John Bercow gives his approval.


19, 2019: Calls for fresh voting

Thousands marched through London’s Parliament Square demanding a second referendum. The demonstrators held placards and unfurled banners calling for fresh voting on Brexit.


21, 2019: ‘Meaningful vote’ ruled out

Following a government request to hold a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote on the most recent withdrawal agreement in parliament, Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow (pictured) refused on the grounds that such a motion would be “repetitive” and “disorderly.” 


28, 2019: European leaders agree to extend date

Donald Tusk tweeted that the EU leaders have agreed to extend Brexit until Jan.

31, 2020. Tusk called it a “flextension,” which means that the U.K. could leave before the deadline, provided that a deal was approved by the parliament.


13, 2019: Johnson’s Conservative Party wins parliamentary majority

After Johnson succeeded in calling a general election in exchange for allowing MPs more time to debate his Brexit deal, the Tories won a significant majority in parliament; gaining over 360 seats out of the total 650. The result paves the way for Johnson to deliver on his campaign promise to “get Brexit done” by the extension date of Jan.

31, 2020.


20, 2019: MPs back Johnson’s EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill

Following a resounding Conservative victory in the Dec.

12 general election, parliament voted on Johnson’s EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill, with MPs voting in favour of the deal by 358 votes to 234 – a majority of 124. The deal now faces further parliamentary scrutiny, however bans any extension of the U.K.’s ‘transition period’, where the country remains subject to many of the bloc’s regulations, beyond 2020.

MPs will further debate the deal after returning from Christmas recess.


23, 2020: Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement becomes law

After more than three and a half years of dispute, the delayed and contentious bill became law, with royal assent from Queen Elizabeth II thus formalising Britain’s exit from the EU scheduled on Jan.

31. However, before the U.K. finally departs, the Withdrawal Agreement must be ratified by the European Parliament, expected on Jan.

29. (Pictured) Westminster protester and anti-Brexit activist Steve Bray and members of the European Parliament take part in a protest outside the EU Parliament in Brussels, on the day the bill became law.


31, 2020: The UK leaves the European Union

The U.K. finally left the European Union after 47 years of membership. In a televised address, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “The most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning. This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act.”

(Pictured) Lights are seen on display at 10 Downing Street in London on Jan.


48/48 SLIDES

The change of systems at the Eurotunnel as the UK leaves the single market and customs union is expected to be “seamless”, a spokesperson for the shuttle service said.   John Keefe said: “For the majority of trucks they won’t even notice the difference.   “There was always the risk that if this happened at a busy time then we could run into some difficulties but it’s happening overnight on a bank holiday and a long weekend.  

“There is a much lower level of traffic going across the Channel than a regular night.”  

a person sitting on a bus: Driver Slavi Ivanov Shumeykov smiles and waves from his Eddie Stobart lorry as it is loaded on to Le Shuttle at the Eurotunnel in FolkestoneGareth Fuller/PA (C) Provided by The Independent Driver Slavi Ivanov Shumeykov smiles and waves from his Eddie Stobart lorry as it is loaded on to Le Shuttle at the Eurotunnel in FolkestoneGareth Fuller/PA

He added that there was “no residue” left from the huge queues of lorries in Kent caused by France effectively shutting the border with the UK earlier in December amid fears over Covid-19.   Tudor Price, deputy chief of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said lorry drivers headed for the border in next few days after the end of the transition period will see a “relaxed” approach from HMRC.   “The government can’t expect businesses to now have everything up and ready in that few hours,” he said. 

“Because things have been done so late all the HMRC officials we have spoken to are taking a very relaxed and pragmatic view of the fact that we have only just started to see the text of the deal.”  

Additional reporting by PA 

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