Britain commenced its separation from the European Union Friday as Brexit day arrived.
The United Kingdom officially departs the EU at 11pm British time Friday, midnight in Brussels.
The departure comes 3½ years after the country voted by a margin of 52%-48% to walk away from the club that it had joined in 1973.
It’s the first time a country has left the EU, and many in the bloc rued the day. In Brussels, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen lamented that “as the sun rises tomorrow a new chapter for our union of 27 will start,” according to an Associated Press report.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is scheduled to deliver a pre-recorded address to the country an hour before departure, calling Brexit “not an end but a beginning”.
The government, AP reports, hopes the moment will be marked in a dignified, non-triumphalist fashion, with red, white and blue lights illuminating government buildings and a countdown clock projected onto the prime minister’s 10 Downing St. residence.
Friday’s departure heralds the start of an 11-month transition period for the country.
For the Cayman Islands and other British Overseas Territories, the transition period and the exit of Britain has left a cloud of uncertainty.
However, Overseas Territories Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad, in a statement, made it clear that a priority for him, and for the UK government, “has been to work closely with Territory leaders to identify the opportunities and concerns in each OT associated with Brexit”.
“I want to both assure you and to leave you in no doubt that the United Kingdom is absolutely committed to the safety and prosperity of each of our British OTs. Brexit is no exception to this,” he said in his statement.
Ahmad said during the implementation period, Overseas Territories citizens’ rights will not change, and neither will the relationship OT companies and non-governmental organisations have with the EU.
He stressed that eligibility criteria for British passports of all types will not be affected by the departure from the EU. Additionally, the rules on travelling to the EU will remain the same throughout the implementation period.
“This means British Citizen passport holders will be able to continue to live, work and study in the EU as they do now. The rights of British Overseas Territory Citizen (BOTC) passport holders, including 90-day visa-free access to the Schengen area in any 180 days, will also not change, either during the implementation period or afterwards,” he added in the statement.
As for EU funding, Ahmad said, the UK government had agreed to cover EU-funded projects in the OTs if the EU were to cease payments.
However, he said, “as part of the Prime Minister’s deal, there is no longer any risk of this: projects in the OTs under these funding streams will continue to be covered by the EU for their duration.”