The United Kingdom has officially left the European Union. With a year's transition period in which the UK and EU will negotiate the terms of this departure, many travelers from third countries, such as Canada, are wondering how Brexit will affect them. See further information about Brexit for Canadians.

As of January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is no longer a member of the continental trading bloc.

While many of the ties between the UK and the EU will remain in place until certain agreements are reached, this marks a significant moment in the long-running "Brexit" saga.

In June 2016, the British public voted on whether to leave or remain part of the EU. The result was a slim victory for the leave campaign (52% to 48%). Since then, Brexit (the "British exit" from the European Union) has created uncertainty for the country as the government struggled to negotiate a deal that would allow them to leave the customs union.

The island nation made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland is no longer a member of the European organization, but will remain in effect part of the EU's customs union until the end of 2020 while negotiations on trade deals are concluded.

The EU's freedom of movement policy is still in place for the UK, but the British government plans to abolish this before the end of the year. This will have an impact on EU nationals traveling to Britain, but will not affect visitors from countries such as Canada.

Canadians can currently travel freely to the UK as well as most other European countries without having to obtain a visa or travel authorization.

This is unlikely to change immediately, as the UK has always maintained its own immigration and visa policies, separate from other EU members.

Brexit is unlikely to affect travel to other European countries. However, the EU is planning to launch an electronic travel authorization called the European Travel Information and Authorization System or ETIAS.

This will be similar to Canada's own eTA. Canadians traveling to countries in Europe's Schengen Area (which includes 22 EU member states as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) will have to register with ETIAS once it is launched in 2021.

It will also be obligatory for nationals of any other country that currently enjoys visa exemption for sovereign states within the Schengen Area.

Since the UK has never been part of the Schengen Area and the ETIAS was planned before Brexit, the process of Britain leaving the EU will not affect this in any way.

The UK is considering launching its own electronic travel authorization to improve security at its borders.

These systems, which act as visa waivers, help countries to monitor who is coming in and out. Travelers can be screened before they arrive and security risks can be identified and denied entry.

In this way, eTAs can help to fight international crime, terrorism, human trafficking, drug smuggling, and illegal immigration.

The issues of tightening borders and clamping down on immigration were central to the Brexit debate. It seems likely that the UK government will introduce some changes to its policies on travelers entering the country and whether this will affect visitors from Canada remains to be seen.

However, it is worth noting that Canada and the UK enjoy a close international relationship stemming from a shared history and the fact that both are members of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Various British politicians have suggested that the UK may seek to make closer ties to the Commonwealth after Brexit, which could mean that Canadians could benefit.

Until the UK introduces its own eTA or makes any other change to its immigration and visa policies, Canadians will continue to be able to visit the country visa-free.

Besides the question of visas, Brexit may have other effects on travel to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

One potential downside is longer queues at UK airports. Citizens of EU countries will now have to join the same lines for passport control as the rest of the world, meaning more people will be waiting in those queues.

On the other hand, a big advantage of Brexit for Canadian holidaymakers is the fact that the pound sterling has slumped in value. The uncertainty over the future of the UK has led the currency to reach historic lows against the Canadian dollar.

While this is unfortunate for Britons, it is beneficial to Canadians, who can now get more British pounds for their dollars-in effect getting better value for their money during their vacation.

Brexit: Background information

Brexit is the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union, having been a member since its formation in 1993.

The UK first became a member of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 and remained a member for 2 decades before the EEC was reorganized into the EU.

However, Euroscepticism has been rising in British politics since the 1990s, with the country divided between those who believed that the benefits of the European Union outweighed the costs and those who believed the country was better off outside it.

This culminated in a referendum on 23rd June 2016. The British public were given the opportunity to vote on whether to leave the EU or remain a member. 72% of voters turned out for the referendum.

Of these voters, 51.89% voted to leave the EU, narrowly defeating the 48.11% who voted to remain. The decision was made to begin the withdrawal process.

The British Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, resigned following the vote.

In 2017, the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, notified the European Council of its intention to leave, triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This allows for a member state to leave the union after a 2-year negotiation period for an agreement to be made on the country's future relationship with the EU on matters such as trade.

The departure date, initially set for March 2019, was extended twice due to difficulties reaching an agreement on certain issues, particularly the issue of whether to reintroduce border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Ms. May also resigned following multiple rejections of her deal by the UK Parliament and pro-Brexit leader Boris Johnson became head of government.

After calling and winning a general election, Mr. Johnson's withdrawal agreement was passed by both the UK House of Commons and the European Parliament.

On 31st January, the UK's membership of the EU finally came to an official end.

However, it has now entered a transitional period, in which the majority of EU laws will continue to apply and the UK will still be part of the customs union until an agreement on a deal is made between the 2 parties.

By the end of 2020, it is expected that the UK will no longer be subject to any EU law or regulation, whether or not a deal has been reached.