It's happened - the UK has left the EU

History has been made now we wait and see what happens

It's happened - the UK has left the EU

Europe takes on a new shape from tonight

It's happened, they're gone, it's over - for now at any rate.

Yes the UK formally left the EU at 11pm tonight

We are on the border here in Donegal so will are extra conscious of all things Brexit but how it all pans out remains to be seen.

It seems a long time ago now but you have to remember that the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016 and officially left the trading bloc - its nearest and biggest trading partner - tonight, January 31 2020.

The EU and the UK agreed to keep many things the same until tonight to allow enough time to agree to the terms of a new trade deal.

As we've seen and read over the last few months it was a complex, sometimes bitter negotiation, but they finally agreed a deal on Christmas Eve December 24.

The so-called Brexit deal contains new rules for how the EU and UK will live, work and trade together.

While the UK was in the EU, companies could buy and sell goods across EU borders without paying taxes and there were no limits on the amount of things which could be traded.

Under the terms of the deal, that won't change tomorrow, Friday January 1, but to be sure that neither side has an unfair advantage, both sides had to agree to some shared rules and standards on workers' rights, as well as many social and environmental regulations.

The deal also covers the many areas concerned travel, fishing, and financial services.

Freedom to work and live between the UK and the EU also comes to an end, and in 2021, UK nationals will need a visa if they want to stay in the EU more than 90 days in a 180-day period.

Northern Ireland will continue to follow many of the EU's rules in order to avoid a hardening of its border with us here in Donegal and in the rest of the Republic of Ireland.

This will mean however that new checks will be introduced on goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Now that it's no longer in the EU, the UK is free to set its own trade policy and can negotiate deals with other countries.

Talks are being held with the US, Australia and New Zealand - countries that currently don't have free trade deals with the EU.

There may not be new taxes to pay at the border, but there will be new paperwork, and the potential for it to cause delays is a serious concern.

The UK says it will delay making most checks for six months, to allow people to get used to the new system, but the EU will be checking paperwork and carrying out checks from day one. So if businesses are not prepared, or do not fill in the new paperwork correctly, it could cause delays and backlogs at ports like Dover.

The UK Government has known about this for years, and say it has made plans to divert trade to other ports around the country and has built lorry parks in Kent, to avoid gridlock on the roads.

It's difficult to predict what the scale of any disruption might be, but government minister Michael Gove has said that UK businesses should prepare for some "bumpy moments".

For all you Brexit-haters out there you'll not be happy to know that this is not the end.

Decisions are still to be made on data sharing and on financial services, and the agreement on fishing only lasts five years.

Also while the EU and UK have agreed to some identical rules now, they don't have to be identical in the future, and if one side takes exception to the changes, they can trigger a dispute, which could ultimately lead to tariffs (charges on imports) being imposed on some goods in the future.

You can also expect the threat of disputes to be a new constant in EU-UK relations.

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Live editorial team any time. To contact Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, email editorial@donegaldemocrat.ie To contact Donegal Post, email editor@donegalpost.com To contact Inish Times, email editor@inishtimes.com.

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