Brexit: what happens next for Cumbria and south of Scotland?

It's the day the UK has been waiting three and a half years for.

As the UK sets sail away from the European Union, ITV Border's political correspondents and reporters have been looking at what the future could look like for Cumbria and the south of Scotland.

  • Will it affect England and Scotland differently?

  • How will it affect our union?

  • With the issue of the Irish Border yet to be decided how will our ports cope with the changes?

  • What implications will leaving the EU have for some of regions biggest industries?

If you think of Brexit as the end of a marriage then 11pm on Friday night is when the divorce is agreed. However, all the nitty gritty about who gets to keep the house, the car, the pets and access to the kids is still yet to be decided.

For that reason Brexit won’t be ‘done’ until the end of the transition period at the end of the year.

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So, what actually changes and what happens next?

For the next eleven months very little actually alters. European travel, EU citizens' rights and imports and exports continue as they do now while the government negotiates it future relationship with the EU.

We are still in the EU customs union and the single market but we have no say in European politics as our MEPs are out of a job.

Throughout the rest of 2020, the Government’s main priority will be to negotiate a trade deal with the EU. That will be tricky as time is limited and they have to thread the needle of keeping a free flow of goods and services whilst keeping their promise to leave the customs union and single market.

Aside from trade deals the Government will also have to agree the future relationship with the EU on security and law.

That all needs to be agreed and ratified by December 31st. The Government has ruled out extending the transition period so if no deal is agreed will ‘crash out’ and face the prospect of tariffs on exports to the EU.

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  • What is Scotland's next move? Representing Border's Greg Hoare gives his take.

Around 62% of people who went to the polls in Scotland voted against Brexit, so the mood may be rather different to much of the rest of the UK.

MSPs have already voted to keep flying the EU flag after Brexit happens, and on the evening of 31 January a rally is expected to take place outside Holyrood, to protest against - in the words of many remainers - "Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will".

The First Minister, who has used that phrase many times, is not expected to attend the rally, but other senior SNP figures are.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the debating chamber during FMQs at the Scottish Parliament. Credit: PA

Sturgeon argues that Brexit equates to a "material change in circumstances", which she says combined with the SNP's election success, gives them a mandate to hold a second independence referendum.

So while Brexit may, technically, be happening at 11pm on 31 January, the constitutional arguments will certainly not end.

Expect the Scottish Government to protest against customs checks in the Irish Sea, and Northern Ireland being treated differently to the rest of the UK.

Expect them to cite any disruption Brexit causes as further evidence that Scotland should go its own way.

And expect them to continue banging the drum for another independence referendum to achieve that.

In a meeting this morning, Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP is ready to "ramp up" its campaign to persuade Scots to choose independence, and says it's realistic thinking it could happen this year.

At the moment she and senior SNP figures are still publicly saying they want a referendum on independence this year, but that's being regarded with plenty of scepticism.

Even if, as expected, indyref2020 doesn't happen, whether or not Scots should go back to the polls to vote on independence is likely to dominate the arguments once again, as campaigning for the 2021 Scottish Parliament election gets underway.

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  • How will Brexit affect the port of Cairnryan? Dumfries and Galloway reporter Bruce McKenzie explains.

Many eyes in our region will be on Cairnryan and the possible impacts on freight and passengers moving between the UK mainland and Northern Ireland.

The Brexit deal means Northern Ireland will eventually have different customs arrangements, but both the UK Government and ferry operators are insisting people shouldn’t panic.

Ferry industry body Discover Ferries says its research has revealed “mass uncertainty” amongst travellers. It says there will be “no change in requirements for people wanting to travel via ferry between the UK and the EU after Brexit.

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This will be the situation for at least the rest of 2020, during the transition period, now the UK government has passed the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

Meanwhile, people in Stranraer say they’re waiting to see what the local impact may be. Many feel ill-informed with chair of the Stranraer Development Trust Romano Petrucci lamenting what he says is a lack of information given to local bodies.

  • What about EU funding? Correspondent Tim Backshall has been finding out.

Many communities across the region have received funding from Europe in the 47 years since we first joined the EEC. More than £100 million has come to Cumbria and southern Scotland since 2014.

It's helped to pay for everything from fibre broadband to flood relief schemes. But critics of the EU argue that the money could have come from the UK government if it hadn't been paying so much to Europe.

Fix the Fells has recently been awarded money from the EU. Credit: ITV News

Fix the Fells, which repairs the badly eroded footpaths in the Lake District, has just been awarded three years of money from the European Regional Development Fund, totalling £845,000.

"The money is absolutely essential, says Fix the Fells Ranger Richard Fox. "If we hadn't managed to secure this money we'd have had to scale back the work significantly. We'd have lost skills and the paths would have become much more eroded in the meantime."

EU money has helped to pay for a wide array of projects right across the region including a flood alleviation scheme in Penrith and the installation of fibre broadband in rural areas up to 2013. It's also gone towards the Garroch Business Park in Dumfries and the creation of the Maxwelltown Cycle Path nearby.

So what will happen when all the EU money finally comes to an end? Will projects across the region be at risk or will the UK government step in to fill that void?

Carlisle's Tory MP John Stevenson says the region will not lose out: "What the government's intentions are is to introduce what's called The UK Prosperity Fund and that will allow regions in different parts of the country to effectively have the money that did come from European Union replaced by money that comes from the British Government."

MP John Stevenson Credit: ITV News

Some are unconvinced and remain concerned about what will happen next.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth says: "While the UK government say they'll continue some funding the reality is that when that's competing with health and education and lots of other things you really wonder whether they'll continue that funding or divert it to other things and that would be a huge disadvantage to regions like ours."

European money will continue to make a difference for a while longer. People will be watching very closely to see what's on the horizon after that.