Information on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU (BREXIT)

Das Wahrzeichen Tower Bridge in London im Sonnenuntergang

An agreement has been reached – what does the successful conclusion of the negotiations mean?

With the agreement of 24 December 2020, the European Union and the UK have opened a new chapter in their relations. During the intensive negotiations, which lasted less than a year, the future relationship between the EU and the UK has been successfully reshaped. In its role as holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, Germany will now do all it can to ensure that the Agreement on the New Partnership can provisionally take effect on 1 January 2021. It will place the relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom on a new footing.

What arrangements have now been agreed?

Among other things, the agreement on future relations with the UK creates a broad economic partnership. In essence, this is based on a free trade agreement which contains neither tariffs nor quotas and thus averts any major trade barriers. However, such a partnership also needs fair parameters. In order to guarantee fair competition, the two sides have agreed on far-reaching provisions, including ones concerning environmental and climate standards. You can find the precise provisions which will now apply as of 1 January 2021 – initially on a provisional basis – on the websites of the relevant federal ministries and the European Commission. A brief overview is also provided here. 

However, there could not be a genuine economic partnership if the future relationship did not go beyond trade issues. The European Union and the United Kingdom have therefore also agreed on the framework for future cooperation in many other spheres: environment, climate and energy issues, air, sea and rail freight transport and fisheries. In addition, there is a separate nuclear agreement.

On what basis did the European Commission negotiate all of this?

With the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union as of 1 February 2020, the Withdrawal Agreement previously negotiated between the EU and the UK entered into force. The Withdrawal Agreement regulates key issues such as citizens' rights. This agreement is accompanied by a Political Declaration in which an agreed framework for negotiating the future relationship was outlined. In line with the Political Declaration, the 27 EU member states agreed on 25 February 2020 to the negotiating mandate for the European Commission, which conducted the negotiations on the future relationship with the UK on behalf of the member states.

What happens at the end of the transition period? Which preparations are necessary?

The transition period stipulated in the Withdrawal Agreement ends on 31 December 2020. After that, the UK will no longer be part of the EU single market or the EU customs union. The EU’s relationship with the UK will therefore fundamentally change at the end of the year. With the conclusion of the agreement on the future relationship, comprehensive new provisions will enter into force. Authorities, businesses and citizens will have to prepare for these provisions at the end of the transition phase.

The German Government has made comprehensive preparations for the changes which were foreseeable before the end of the transition phase and which will happen regardless of the outcome of the negotiations. Within the EU, the German Government has been in close contact with the Commission and the other member states, and at national level with all stakeholders (the business community, associations, citizens) and will remain so.

On 9 July 2020, the European Commission published a readiness communication outlining the changes that will take place – regardless of the outcome of the negotiations. Detailed information on the individual changes (for example chemicals, transboundary shipment of waste, invasive alien species et cetera) can be found in the almost 100 sector-specific stakeholder readiness notices. These are intended to help public administrations, companies and citizens to prepare.