Preparing for the end of the Transition Period Contents


1.After leaving the European Union on 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom entered an eleven-month transition period, as set out in the Withdrawal Agreement. During the transition, EU law has continued to apply to the UK but without UK participation in EU decision-making.1 This has allowed businesses trading between the UK and EU to continue to operate under familiar arrangements while they prepare for the new arrangements that come into effect at the end of the year. The Withdrawal Agreement allowed the transition period to be extended for up to two years, if the two parties agreed. The option to extend was not taken and both the Government and businesses will need to be ready for new trading arrangements on 1 January 2021.2

2.While the outcome of the UK-EU future relationship negotiations remains unknown, it has been clear for quite some time that the UK will be leaving the single market and the customs union. In July 2020, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, told the House of Commons:

Regardless of the outcome of negotiations with the EU over our future relationship, whether or not we have a Canada-style deal or an Australian model, we will be leaving the single market and the customs union.3

This means that a customs and regulatory border will be erected between the UK and the EU on 1 January 2021. Physical and IT infrastructure will be required to ensure the border’s smooth operation as new processes are put in place. The Government has taken steps to prepare: developing new IT systems and modifying existing ones, building new infrastructure and recruiting, and incentivising the recruitment of, new staff in the public and private sectors. It has also put in place interim measures in some areas to make things easier for businesses in the short term. We will consider the efficacy of some of the measures in this Report. EU member states have been making similar preparations.

3.While the Government must make sure it is prepared, it also has a wider responsibility to businesses and communities across the UK to ensure the transition to the new relationship is as smooth and seamless as possible. It is incumbent on the Government to explain fully the implications of the new trading relationship for businesses, and to prepare them to navigate the new customs infrastructure and regulatory arrangements. We will explore these issues in Chapter 2.

4.The relationship between the UK and the EU is about more than just trade. For many years, the UK has been a part of, and made considerable contribution to, the EU framework for cooperation on policing and security. From the 1 January 2021 the UK will be a third country outside this framework, with implications, among others, for policing the UK border. We will examine these in more detail in Chapter 3.

5.Alongside preparations for this new relationship, the Government has also had to deal with the implementation of the NI Protocol and unresolved issues around its interpretation We will examine this process in more detail in Chapter 4.

1 For a detailed analysis of UK’s position within the transition period see: Brexit next steps: The transition period, Insight, House of Commons Library, 31 January 2020

2 European Commission, EU-UK Statement following the High Level Meeting, 15 June 2020

3 HC Deb, 13 July 2020, col 1268

Published: 19 December 2020 Site information    Accessibility statement