SO here it is – Brexit day.

After one referendum, two General Elections and five attempts to pass the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons, Britain will leave the European Union at 11pm tonight, January 31.

It is the third date that has been pencilled in the diary for Brexit after two false starts on March 29 and October 31 last year.

But will Cheshire notice anything different once Britain leaves the EU tonight?

Philip Cox is chief executive of 871 Cheshire and Warrington local enterprise partnership (LEP), which supports businesses across Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Warrington.

“I don’t think Friday is going to bring anything really,” he told the Guardian.

Winsford Guardian:

“In the run up to March 29 last year, we were being asked to provide a lot of support to businesses by central Government – making sure people understood the implications of a no-deal Brexit.

“We repeated all that again in the run up to October 31 – but we have had none of that this time around.”

When the UK leaves the EU tonight, it will enter what is known as the ‘transition period’, with the nation remaining in Europe’s customs union and single market until December 31.

In that time the UK Government needs to iron out its future relationship with the EU – covering everything from tariffs and trade, to movement of people and regulations.

If the two sides fail to agree on a new deal, Britain could end up trading with the EU under World Trade Organisation rules – the same outcome as there would have been if a ‘no-deal Brexit’ took place last year.

Andrew Lewis, chief executive at Cheshire West and Chester Council, told the Guardian: “We did quite a lot of intensive work in the run up to what might have been a no deal Brexit, which would have had a significant impact for us on services and the wider borough.

Winsford Guardian:

“We will continue with the same framework that we would have as members of the EU until at the end of the year. We are not expecting any risks from Brexit itself because of the transition arrangements.

“That is not to say that the work was wasted, because that risk could well still come back, particularly if there is not a comprehensive agreement with the EU by the end of the year.

“Some of those same risks that we were planning for with a no-deal Brexit remain risks if we leave without a comprehensive agreement at the end of the transition period, but for the moment it would not be something that people notice.”

CWAC involved residents and other public and private sector bodies in its Brexit policy commission last year, which looked at issues the local authority need to prioritise when the UK leaves the EU.

Next-door Cheshire East Council has also been busy preparing for what is the biggest constitutional change the country has seen since it joined the European Economic Community in 1973.

“We are continually monitoring the situation and plan to minimise the impact,” said Frank Jordan, executive director of place and EU Exit lead officer at CEC.

Winsford Guardian:

“CEC has been making plans to ensure an adequate transition – on a sector-by-sector basis – to mitigate any issues that may arise post Brexit, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations.

“This includes examining public health and adult social care services to ensure effective delivery, as well as children’s services which we foresee no direct consequence when leaving the EU.

“Our current risk assessment concludes that we are not expecting imminent changes and we remain confident our planning will enable us to effectively manage our services.”

Cheshire is home to a wide variety of businesses – from car manufacturing and chemicals, to baking and banking.

And each of their needs will be different as the UK negotiates with the EU this year.

Mr Cox said: “You will have heard Vauxhall, and its owner Peugeot, being anxious about Brexit – the impact it might have on free trade, the cost of tariffs on cars going to Europe and so on.

Winsford Guardian:

Image: PA

“Vauxhall will have one set of objectives, but Bentley is also in our patch. They are part of Volkswagen. They will be worried about tariffs, but a good chunk of their business is in the United States and China, where actually it might be that they could pay more attention.

“So you can see how even two different companies within the same industry have slightly different objectives depending on where they get their components from and where they are exporting to.

“That is true for many Cheshire businesses. There are a large number of businesses that do a lot of trade with companies or supply products in Europe, and there are some that are going to be completely unaffected.”

As for local authorities such as CWAC, their key concerns for Britain’s future relationship with the EU involve immigration and the regulations they rely on for trading standards.

“As part of the single market we can rely on regulatory enforcement from other member states,” Mr Lewis said.

“But with Brexit that becomes a domestic responsibility and has an impact on local authorities to do with trading standards and the quality of goods.

“We have had involvement with the settled status scheme, where we have been helping people in Cheshire West to navigate the system and register themselves in good time, and we have also been concerned about some social care providers.

Winsford Guardian:

Image: PA

“Many of them will use employment from the EU, and if there is a reaction where people go home and it becomes harder to employ people, that could impact on some of our providers. A lot of them are quite vulnerable because of funding pressures anyway.”

When Britain voted to leave the EU on June 23, 2016, 52 per cent of voters were won over by claims of a brighter future to come outside of the trading bloc.

So what benefits could Cheshire enjoy – and will we see them sooner or later?

Mr Lewis said: “I think it is difficult to say at the moment. Potentially we could set our own regulatory standards and it might help local business.

“But it is very difficult to see that it yet because we don’t yet know the implications there might be for access to EU markets, what the game of global trading arrangements might be and what restrictions there will be.

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“I think there are potentially some longer-term benefits but it is too early to assess them at the moment. We need to have a framework for trade outside the EU.”

Mr Cox added: “The one thing I would say is that for all businesses, including financial businesses, what they want is clarity and certainty. That was missing in the run up to March 29 and October 31.

“Once they know what they are dealing with, most businesses say they are sufficiently flexible.

“As a Cheshire economy, we have got a larger proportion of exports going to China and the United States than is the case for the rest of the UK. If being out of the EU makes it easier for us to export to those areas then companies doing that are going to benefit quite a bit.

“There is likely to be some sort of tariff between us and the EU. If that happens then there is a strong possibility to get supply chain companies on this side of the Channel – but that really does depend on the terms of the deal that is done.”

For now, it seems life in Brexit Britain will be much the same as before, but all that could change when the clock hits midnight on January 1, 2021.