The bells of Big Ben chimed to mark the occasion but there were no street parties or chaos on the roads for the arrival of Brexit at 11pm on December 31st 2020, when the transition period ended.

Industry leaders did warn, however, of “invisible chaos” as businesses grapple with new trading rules and software systems required from day one for exports to the EU.

While the UK has decided to phase in reciprocal checks over six months, in Northern Ireland they are operational from day one, which has raised fears of chaos and confusion despite a £200-million support scheme put in place by the government and a grace period for supermarkets. So what are the biggest changes caused by Brexit?


Those who arrive for the first time in the UK have to go through the new points-based system requiring a minimum salary of £25,600 for skilled workers and £20,480 for those with job offers in a shortage occupation or in possession of a PhD relevant to the job.

British nationals travelling to Europe on holiday are able to do so visa-free for ninety days in a one-hundred-and-eighty-day period but have lost the automatic right to live and work in an EU country.

at the airport

The “arriving from the EU” lane has disappeared at airports and has been replaced with “goods to declare” or “nothing to declare”. There are now limits on alcohol and cigarette purchases from the EU on entry to the UK. The Home Office says Border Force has recruited more than a thousand extra officers and is training its staff on changes to policy and processes.

EU citizens will continue to be subject to ID and security checks and may be asked about the purpose of their journey. Border officials are allowed to check if they have settled or pre-settled status. However, they only do this if there is a specific reason to do so, according to the Home Office.

EU citizens can continue to use e-passport gates and existing queues —so no separate channel for UK nationals at airports. Some EU citizens not living in the UK may need a permitted paid engagement visa if they are visiting for work.

432 After Brexit shutter

EU citizens

British nationals already settled in Europe have the right to remain, although with restrictions on their movements to other EU countries. EU citizens in the UK before December 31st are entitled to stay but they have only six months to make sure they are granted settled status or pre-settled status by the Home Office.

Landlords and employers

Landlords and employers face sanctions for employing or renting to people not entitled to be in the country, but Brexit does not mean an immediate change for those employing EU citizens already in the UK. There are no immediate changes for landlords. Until June 30th right-to-rent checks will continue in the same way as they have so far for EU citizens, along with those from Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Landlords will not, for example, need to make retrospective checks for existing tenants from 2021. However, the government has not published any clear guidance to ensure landlords understand their responsibilities from July on.


Eurotunnel and the ports of Dover and Calais all agree they do not expect a repeat of the horrific scenes seen on Kent roads before Christmas. There won’t be food shortages, but some supplies will be delayed until companies get used to doing the right paperwork before they get to Dover.

All businesses are required to provide a customs declaration on goods sent into the EU, including Ireland and Northern Ireland (which follows EU customs rules). They must also know if VAT is applicable and ensure fees are cleared before transit or on arrival.

Lorry drivers going into Kent must have all the correct paperwork by applying online for a Kent Access Permit, dubbed the “Brexit truckers’ passport”. Those carrying chilled, frozen food or animals, including race horses, will need health certificates for their cargo to prove to the French they are disease- and pest-free. Businesses also have to have an economic operators registration and identification system for the exporter and the recipient, including special numbers for Northern Ireland. Freight owners who have not supplied drivers with the correct customs paperwork or health certificates for food consignments will not get the Kent Access Permit they need to get into the county and will be stuck in depots and distribution centres around the country in what some call “invisible chaos”.

The negotations for a Brexit agreement between the UK and the EU have been long and painful, and there are still many aspects that are unclear. Nevertheless, here’s a brief explanation of some of the issues mentioned in the article. More information can be found at the UK government’s official Brexit website:

Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status:

The rights of EU citizens —and those of the European Economic Area (EEA: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland— living in the UK will remain the same until 30 June 2021. To continue living and working in the UK after that date, they must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. If the application is accepted, they will be given either settled status or pre-settled status.

Settled Status: 

In order to get settled status the candidate must have lived in the UK for a continuous five-year period . That means that he or she must have spent at least six months in any twelve-month period in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for five years in a row. Or, have both lived in the UK for a continuous five-year period in the past and have not left the UK for more than five years in a row since then.

Pre-Settled Status: 

This status is given if the candidate does not have five years’ continuous residence but has been living in the UK before 31st December 2020, unless he or she is applying as the existing close family member of a EU, EEA or Swiss citizen. If accepted, the applicant can stay in the UK for a further five years from the acceptance date but must apply for settled status before its expiry date in order to stay. 

Permitted Paid Engagement Visa:

A EU citizen may be able to visit the UK for a paid engagement; this means that the person has been invited as an expert by a UK-based organisation or client to do specific paid work. For example, a EU citizen can visit the UK as an academic taking part on a panel for an education, arts or research organisation; to give guest lectures at a higher education institution; to provide advocacy in an area of law; or to take part in arts, entertainment, sporting activities or fashion modelling assignments

A Permitted Paid Engagement visa costs £95 and lasts for up to one month, and can only be applied for three months or less before the travel date. 

Whether the visa is necessary or not, British authorities can ask the applicant to provide credentials, accommodation details and a return ticket at the UK border.

Right-to-Rent Checks:

Landlords or letting agents renting residential property must first check that the tenant can legally rent in the UK. They must check all tenants aged eighteen and over before the start of a new tenancy, even if they are not named on the tenancy agreement. If the tenant is only allowed to stay in the UK for a limited time, the check should be done in the 28 days before the start of the tenancy.

Kent Access Permit (KAP):

The KAP confirms that drivers have the right documents for EU import controls to travel specifically through Kent to the Port of Dover or the Eurotunnel and on to the EU. Drivers of heavy goods vehicles (HGV) of 7.5 tonnes or over must have a KAP, even if they are not carrying goods or only carrying post. Each permit is valid for twenty-four hours. A driver could be fined up to £300 for entering Kent without a KAP, or for making false declarations when travelling to the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel.

Additionally, drivers must have tested negative for Covid-19 up to seventy-two hours before crossing the border.