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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It took two general elections, three prime ministers, and just over 4 1/2 years, but as of today Britain finally has the Brexit it voted for in June 2016.

  • It's not a pretty sight.

The big picture: Britain has left Europe's single market and customs union, and is no longer governed by European law.

  • Yes, but: Northern Ireland is still part of the U.K., while trading as though it is part of Europe. That means anybody moving goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain needs to fill out a customs declaration first.
  • An analogy: Imagine businesses in Alaska being able to trade freely with Canada and Mexico, but needing to fill out paperwork in order to import or export anything to the rest of the USA.
  • Gibraltar, similarly, will join the Schengen Area. That means Europeans will be able to travel in and out freely, while visitors from the U.K. are forced to show their passports at a border control.

The trade deal with Europe puts zero tariffs on goods. Most of Britain's economy is in the services sector, however — which aren't covered at all in the deal. (The U.K.'s businesses have had just one week to prepare for the new trade regime, which was agreed to on Christmas Eve.)

  • Britain exports about $35 billion of financial services to the EU every year, and another $134 billion of other services, including legal, accounting, advertising, architecture, insurance, tech support, and much more.
  • As for the U.K.'s trade relations with the rest of the world, 62 trade agreements have been signed — although many big ones, including the U.S., China and India, are still up in limbo.

By the numbers: The U.K. Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that Brexit will leave the country about 4% poorer than it would have been as part of the EU.

  • That's just the economic cost. The cultural costs associated with the end of free movement of labor between Britain and the continent are less quantifiable, but arguably larger.
  • Both Europe and the U.K. may also be less secure, now that British police no longer have access to the Schengen Information System. Last year, they queried Europe's largest security database more than 1.6 million times per day.

The future of the U.K. is also now at risk.

  • Scotland wants to secede and become an independent European nation.
  • Northern Ireland might vote to leave the U.K. and join Ireland, reuniting the island.

The other side: "For the first time since 1973 we will be an independent coastal state with full control of our waters," said U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, announcing the deal.

The bottom line: For the past 40 years, Britain found peace and prosperity as one of the most important players in a community of more than 400 million people. As of today, it has become, once again, an island off the coast of Europe.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Jan 19, 2021 - World

Europeans have high hopes for Joe Biden

Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Joe Biden's inauguration will be greeted with enthusiasm in Europe, with three new polls making clear that most Europeans can't wait to bid Donald Trump adieu.

The big picture: Europeans generally expect brighter days ahead under Biden, according to the polls, but his election has not fully assuaged doubts about U.S. democracy and global leadership.

24 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's latest executive order: Buy American

President Joe R. Biden speaks about the economy before signing executive orders in the State Dining Room at the White House on Friday, Jan 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden will continue his flurry of executive orders on Monday, signing a new directive to require the federal government to “buy American” for products and services.

Why it matters: The executive action is yet another attempt by Biden to accomplish goals administratively without waiting for the backing of Congress. The new order echoes Biden's $400 billion campaign pledge to increase government purchases of American goods.

Tech digs in for long domestic terror fight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With domestic extremist networks scrambling to regroup online, experts fear the next attack could come from a radicalized individual — much harder than coordinated mass events for law enforcement and platforms to detect or deter.

The big picture: Companies like Facebook and Twitter stepped up enforcement and their conversations with law enforcement ahead of Inauguration Day. But they'll be tested as the threat rises that impatient lone-wolf attackers will lash out.