Most of you will probably be aware that the UK will now formally leave the European Union by automatic operation of law at the end of January. Lots of people, however, including many within the UK, are uncertain of what this actually means. I must admit I’m pretty confused myself at times. But there are helpful explainers on various websites which seem to more or less agree.
The important point is that while the UK will reach the point of no return on January 31st, nothing much will change. There will be an 11 month (at least) Transition Period during which life will carry on pretty much as before. You can find explanations of this at The Institute for Government and the BBC.
Most importantly, there will be no immedite change to international trade, and no change to freedom of movement, during this period. Those things will only happen at the end of the Transition Period on December 31st 2020.
Equally I suspect that there will be little in the way of changes to UK equalities law during the Transition Period. In theory, at least, we are still subject to EU law. I can’t see the government wanting to make an issue of this, because they have made it clear that they want to pretend that we are already fully out of the EU as of the end of this month, so they won’t do anything that makes it clear that we are not.
Of course, as we have seen in the USA, it is entirely possible for government to ramp up discrimination against minorities without changing the law. I expect there to be a raft of government notices that target Muslims, trans people, EU citizens and so on. But this will not be anywhere near as bad as will happen once EU law is off our statute books.
So basically we have a year of being in a sort of dreamlike state where we are on a train, heading for a precipice in 11 months time, but the government will be telling us that everything is fine because we have aleady passed the precipice and gravity has not taken effect.
I guess we should be using that time to get stuff done.