New customs rules between the EU and the UK come into effect, as the first trucks pass through the Channel Tunnel

In the coastal cities of Dover and Calais, new rules apply to people and shipping companies who want to import or export to Great Britain. The UK itself announced that it was ready for major changes to its borders with the European Union, which came into effect at midnight. The UK has “freedom in its hands” and must make the best of it, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday evening.

Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Europe at midnight that he would return soon. “Scotland will be back soon,” she said on Twitter. “Leave the lights on.” The Scottish Prime Minister wants to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence this year.

As Big Ben in London chimes at 11pm local time, it is announced that the UK will exit the European Trade Area. The British House of Commons and the House of Lords approved the agreement between Great Britain and the European Union last Wednesday. Big Ben has been undergoing a major restoration since 2017, but on this historic day the bells were re-ringed.

The United Kingdom left the European Union at the end of last January, but remained committed to existing agreements with the bloc until the end of this year. The failure to reach new agreements on trade threatened major chaos and costly trade barriers after New Year’s Eve. Just before Christmas, Great Britain and the European Union concluded a trade agreement.

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The first trucks to cross the customs border

Shortly after midnight, the first trucks crossed the new customs border in northern France. The drivers submitted their customs papers before boarding the train passing through the Canal Tunnel.

A Romanian driver saw his papers approved in seconds. “I don’t think it will be difficult,” he told Reuters news agency. In the early hours of the new year, there was little freight traffic through the Eurotunnel in Calais.

British and European companies have previously warned of chaos at the borders due to the amount of paperwork, which threatens to obstruct the smooth flow of trade worth about one trillion euros annually. The risk of chaos was minimal, the director of Getlink, which provides transport through the Channel Tunnel, announced on Thursday, a few hours before the new rules came into force. According to him, some adjustments will be necessary in the coming days and weeks.

Megan Vasquez

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