United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU

Brexit is now a reality: Where do we stand? Where do we go from here?

On 1 February, the United Kingdom ceased to be a member of the European Union. Brexit has become a reality. What will change, and what will remain the same? Here is a round-up of the most important information.

The EU flag and the Union Jack fly beside Big Ben in London

In spite of the UK's withdrawal from the EU as of 1 February 2020, initially nothing will change for citizens or companies.

Photo: Eric TSCHAEN/REA/laif

Initially the withdrawal of the United Kingdom will change nothing for citizens or businesses:

  • The Withdrawal Agreement provides for a transition phase until 31 December 2020. During this period, EU law will continue to apply to the UK, and the UK will remain part of the EU Single Market and the Customs Union.
  • Freedom of movement within the EU, i.e. the right to live, work and study in the EU and the UK, and to be covered by the social welfare system in place will also continue to apply in full during the transition phase.
  • Under the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, the transitional phase can be extended once for a maximum period of two years. The decision to extend the transition phase would have to be taken by 1 July 2020. The transition phase gives citizens and businesses a reliable framework for planning. 

For the period thereafter, i.e. as of 1 January 2021 at the earliest, the Withdrawal Agreement provides legal certainty in important areas:

  • The rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and conversely the rights of UK citizens living in the EU will be protected in full for as long as they live. They can continue to live, work and study in the UK or the EU, and will continue to be covered by the social welfare systems in place.
  • The special regulations on Northern Ireland mean that the integrity of the EU Single Market is safeguarded, while still ensuring that there will be no controls at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and preserving in full the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. The regulation stipulates that Northern Ireland will remain part of the customs territory of the UK, but that all relevant regulations of the EU Single Market will continue to apply in Northern Ireland and that the EU Customs Code will apply. The necessary controls and customs checks will be conducted at the point of entry to the island of Ireland in Northern Ireland.
  • In addition, the Withdrawal Agreement regulates the financial obligations of the United Kingdom vis à vis the EU.

Where do we go from here?

The EU and the United Kingdom will make the best possible use of the transition period to negotiate the future relationship between the EU and the UK. In future too the EU aims to retain a close partnership with the United Kingdom.

Negotiations on the future relationship are expected to start in March. Before they can start, the 27 EU member states must agree on a mandate for the European Commission which is responsible for negotiating. The initial consultations are already ongoing. The mandate should be ready to be officially adopted by the European Council at the end of February.

The Political Declaration sets out the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom. Essentially it provides for an economic partnership and a security partnership.

Where can I find more information?

The European Commission answers questions on its website, including the following:

  • What is included in the common provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement? 
  • What has been agreed on citizens’ rights? 
  • What has been agreed on separation issues? 
  • What has been agreed on the governance of the Withdrawal Agreement? 
  • What has been agreed regarding the financial settlement?
  • Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland
  • What has been agreed regarding the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus?

On its website, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community provides FAQs (frequently asked questions regarding impacts on the status rights of British citizens with respect to Brexit.