By Alison Fox
January 31, 2020

More than three years after the U.K. voted to leave the European Union, Brexit is finally happening.

While the country will no longer be part of Europe after Friday, much will remain the same — at least for the next year, according to reports.

Starting Feb. 1, U.K. citizens will no longer be part of the EU but will be able to travel within the Schengen Area visa-free for up to 90 days during any 180 day period, according to the European Parliament. The Schengen Area includes most of Western Europe and does not have active borders between each country.

Brexit fan in front of London's Big Ben.
Credit: Getty Images

The U.K. first voted to leave the EU in June 2016, and the travel rules were agreed upon in April 2019.

But things will stay the same until December 2020.

"You won't need a visa or six months left on your passport or evidence of a return ticket,” Tom Jenkins, the chief executive of the European Tourism Association, told CNN.

However, 2021 is still very much up in the air. The U.K. and EU are not able to legally begin negotiations for future agreements until February, CNN noted.

Similarly, during the transition this year, U.K. citizens will still be able to use a European Health Insurance Card, but it’s not so clear what happens in 2021, according to the network.

Additionally, the U.K. is set to become part of the new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), CNN added, which would allow UK citizens to travel to the Schengen Area without a visa by paying €7.

An exception is Ireland. According to the BBC, both the U.K. and EU have agreed there shouldn’t be any new checks or controls on goods between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

"Brexit doesn't change the ease of getting to Ireland or the warmth of the welcome," Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, told CNN.

In addition to travel, the U.K. and EU will have until Dec. 31, 2020 to secure a new trade deal as well as agreements on security and immigration laws, CNN reported. Until that date, the U.K. will remain part of the single market.

With much left to be decided and confusion abound, one thing is for sure: the U.K. is finally separating from the European Union and many are emotional at the prospect.

“Today is a sad day. Brexit is what happens when a false sense of superiority combines with a false sense of victimhood,” a Twitter user from Scotland wrote. “We should be reaching out to our European friends rather than walking away from them. It is better to be internationalist rather than isolationist.”

Jon Stone, a Europe Correspondent for The Independent, posted a photo on Twitter of the main square in Brussels lit up with the colors of the Union Jack “to say goodbye to the Brits.”

And Diccon Bewes, an English travel writer living in Switzerland, wrote on Twitter that he just left the country for the last time as an EU citizen.

“I asked the Zurich border guard what happens next week when I return,” he wrote. “She said they have no idea. “Most likely use the non-EU lane and get passport stamped.””