Brexit has arrived: Where are we now? What happens next?

The British flag and the flag of the EU

The British flag and the flag of the EU, © abaca / dpa / picture alliance

30.01.2020 - Article

Brexit came into effect on 1 February: The UK is no longer a member of the European Union. What will remain the same, what will change? Here is an overview of the most important information.

For the time being, the departure of the UK will not change anything for either citizens or companies:

  • A transition period until 31 December 2020 is anchored in the Withdrawal Agreement, during which EU law continues to apply to the UK. The UK remains a part of the EU single market and the EU customs union.
  • The EU’s freedom of movement, i.e. the right to live, work, study or have social security coverage in the EU and in the UK continues to apply in full during this period.
  • Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the transition period may be extended once by up to two years; the decision on this must be made by 1 July 2020. In particular, the transition phase provides citizens as well as the business sector with crucial planning certainty. 

The Withdrawal Agreement also creates legal certainty in key spheres for the time after the transition period, i.e. from 1 January 2021 at the earliest:

  • EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU will enjoy lifelong comprehensive protection of their rights; they can continue to live, work, study and enjoy social security both in the UK and in the EU.
  • The special Protocol for Northern Ireland guarantees the integrity of the EU single market; at the same time, it ensures that there will be no controls at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and that the Good Friday Agreement remains fully in force. The Protocol provides that Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK’s customs territory but that all relevant rules of the EU single market will apply in Northern Ireland as will the Union Customs Code. The checks and collection of customs duties this will entail will take place at the entry points to the island of Ireland in Northern Ireland.
  • What is more, the UK’s financial obligations towards the EU are also laid down in the Withdrawal Agreement.

What happens next?

The EU and the UK will make full use of the transition period to negotiate their future relations. The EU wants to continue having a close partnership with the UK.

The negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK are expected to begin in March. Before that, the 27 member states of the European Union will have to agree on the negotiating mandate for the European Commission. Initial consultations on this have already started. The adoption of the mandate by the Council is scheduled for late February.

The Political Declaration on the future relationship sets out the framework for negotiations on future relations between the EU and the UK. The declaration essentially envisages an economic partnership and a security partnership.

Where can I find more information?

On its Website the European Commission has answers to the following questions and others:

  • 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 lists questions and answers on the impact of the status rights of British nationals in connection with Brexit.

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