Explaining Brexit to children

After years of tantrums, time-wasting and tonnes of articles about why Brexit will be amazing or awful, Brexit Day is finally here this week. However you feel about that, Friday 31 January is the point of no return when the UK leaves the EU. The moment arrives at 11pm our time, as that’s when it’ll be midnight in Brussels, the home of the EU.

But as you know by now, the only thing certain about Brexit is the uncertainty, so we haven’t properly left yet. The only (sort of) definite date in the diary is 31 December this year, which is when what’s called the transition period ends.

For now, the only thing that’s really changed is that our MEPs will all be coming home and we won’t have any say in how the EU’s rules are made, although we will still have to stick to them.

Before the end of the transition period, the UK will have to negotiate our future relationship with the EU, including which of their laws and rules we will use. In the meantime, businesses can still trade in the same way and Brits can still work and travel in the EU as normal.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom - September 23, 2018: new British one pound coins (bimetallic 12 sided design that was introduced in 2017) stacked in three piles of different heights (value) and the new polymer £5 UK banknote (introduced in 2016).

Starting in March, our Government will try to reach an agreement with the EU, on trade, fishing rights, security arrangements and everything else. If a deal is agreed, we’ll leave the EU and go ahead with these new rules in place. If not, we’ll leave anyway without a deal, but many businesses are terrified of this prospect because it could lead to higher costs and delays sending their products to Europe

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BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  Boris Johnson speaks at a Conservative home fringe meeting on day three of the Conservative Party Conference on October 2, 2018 in Birmingham, England. The former Foreign Secretary makes his Brexit speech to the Conservative Home fringe meeting audience today. This is seen as a direct challenge to the Prime Minister's much maligned Chequers Deal. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson could technically request an extension to the transition period before 1 July, but the prime minister has ruled this out several times, as he says that he wants to “get Brexit done” and not spend any more time on it. So it’s thought that he will make a very narrow agreement with the EU on the most pressing issues, such as trade and fishing rights, then hammer out the rest of the details gradually after we’ve left.

Realistically, the agreement will need to be sorted by 26 November, as that’s when MEPs will have their last big meeting of the year and they’ll need to discuss the deal then.

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