Has the UK left the EU and taken back control?

The Lie

The Conservatives won the 2019 election with the “Get Brexit Done” slogan. The slogan gave the impression that on 31 January 2020, the UK would “Take Back Control” and would no longer be subject to EU institutions. The slogan “Take Back Control” was deliberately vague as the UK has always been a sovereign nation.

The Reality

The UK did leave the EU on 31 January 2020 with the passing of the Withdrawl Agreement on 23 January 2020 but this only initiated the next phase of Brexit known as the transition period.

During the transition period, the UK is still subject to EU rules and pays into the EU budget. During the transition period, the UK has no representation within the EU.


The transition (sometimes called the implementation period) is due to last until 31 December 2020. During this period, the UK will remain in both the EU customs union and single market.

In effect, the UK has not “Taken Back Control” until at least December 31 2020 when the transition period ends.

During the transition period, the focus of discussion between the UK and EU is trade. The UK will attempt to achieve a free trade agreement with the EU in the transition period. This is unlikely to be an easy process and an extension to the transition period could materialise.

Prime Minister Johnson has stated he will not ask for an extension beyond 31 December 2020. This would mean the UK could still end up with a “No Deal” Brexit and trading under WTO terms.


Britain has no intention of seeking an extension to the transition period beyond December 2020 after it leaves the European Union, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Monday.


That would leave the UK trading on WTO (World Trade Organization) terms with the EU. This means that most UK goods would be subject to tariffs until a free trade deal was ready to be brought in.


However, both sides face a huge challenge to strike a trade deal and address the future relationship before a stand-still transition period ends in December 2020.

There will be no visible change to the general public and business during the transition period. In effect, any real change to the country will not happen until December 31 2020.

Business Insider:

Businesses will also notice little difference to their day-to-day arrangements. The UK will maintain its current trade and customs arrangements with the EU, with non-EU countries also treating the UK as a full member.