RIGA - After Great Britain's withdrawal from the European Union tonight, nothing will change for citizens and business - from a practical point of view - until the end of the year, the Foreign Ministry's Parliamentary Secretary Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica said in an interview with Latvian Radio.
According to the politician, the biggest practical change will be that Britain will no longer be represented at the "big negotiation table" in Brussels.
Now one of the most important things will be for the EU and Britain to agree on a free trade deal, which Lukasevica says will be a major challenge to be achieved this year as usually it has taken much longer to reach similar agreements.
Kalnina-Lukasevica admitted that the most important area for Latvia in this free trade agreement would be the timber industry. However, Latvian timber industry is not too worried because, even if the agreement is not concluded, the customs tariffs applicable will not be very high. If the free trade agreement is not signed, this could pose more problems to, for instance, export of food products.
British Ambassador to Latvia Keith Shannon has also stressed that nothing will change for citizens and businesses during the transition period.
During the transitional period, Britain will seek to reach agreement on further relations with the EU. A series of agreements will have to be reached, most importantly on trade, the diplomat said.
Britain and Latvia also closely cooperate at other institutions and levels besides the EU, and this cooperation will continue, said Shannon.
President Egils Levits said in an interview with Latvian Television that Latvia's interests in further negotiations with Great Britain included good trade conditions and the status of Latvian citizens in Britain.
Asked to comment whether the EU and Great Britain would manage to settle their relationship in less than a year, Levits said they could if there was a will. However, if either side refuses to compromise, time might be short.
It is clear that EU funding to Latvia will decrease after Brexit, said Levits. He expects that, during the EU budget talks, a number of countries united by common interests would form informal coalitions in order to achieve the best possible budgetary conditions.
As reported, at 1 p.m. (Latvian time) tonight Britain is finally leaving the EU. Brexit will be followed by a transition period, ending December 31, 2020. During the transition, EU laws will still apply to the UK and both sides will have to negotiate a new trade agreement.