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Brexit Update

The UK left the EU on Friday 31 January 2020 on the terms set out in the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

On 24 December 2020, the EU and UK negotiating teams reached agreement in principle on a Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which is effective from the end of the transition period.  The Agreement will provide for tariff-free, quota-free trade and for sectoral cooperation in a number of important areas.  The European Commission has provided more information on the Agreement on its website.  Given the late stage at which the negotiations were finalised, the Agreement is being provisionally applied for a period from 1 January while procedures to conclude the agreement are completed. 

The Agreement provides for tariff and quota free goods trade, transport and energy connectivity, and cooperation between police services.  It protects the Single Market that is so important for our future prosperity and ensures fair competition for our businesses. For more information on the agreement, please click here.

It is important to note that even with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement in place, there will be significant and lasting change to the EU’s relationship with the UK. As of 1 January, the UK is outside the EU Single Market and Customs Union.  This means new procedures apply for businesses moving goods to, from or through the UK, excluding Northern Ireland.  The Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland, which forms part of the Withdrawal Agreement agreed earlier with the UK, means that no new procedures will apply to goods moving between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Businesses and citizens should continue as a matter of urgency with the steps set out in the Government's Brexit Readiness Action Plan.


Brexit Negotiations Timeline

On 17 October 2019, the EU and the UK agreed a final text of a Withdrawal Agreement, which was endorsed unanimously by the European Council.

Following completion of the ratification processes in the EU and the UK, the UK left the EU on Thursday, 31 January 2020. While no longer a member of the EU, the Withdrawal Agreement provided for a transition period, ending on 31 December 2020.

The Withdrawal Agreement includes a Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland, which allows for a more permanent set of arrangements to address the challenges of Brexit on the island of Ireland [see below.]

Negotiations on the EU-UK Future Relationship

EU Member States, including Ireland, adopted a negotiating mandate for the future relationship at a meeting of the General Affairs Council on 25 February 2020, authorising the Commission’s UK Task Force (UKTF) led by EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, to begin negotiations.

Negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK began on 5 March and an agreement in principle was reached on 24 December 2020. This agreement came into effect on 1 January 2021.  

What did the EU and the UK agree on 24 December 2020?

The EU and the UK agreed in principle the text of a new Trade and Cooperation Agreement, as well as a Security of Information Agreement and a Civil Nuclear Agreement.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement creates a new framework for the EU-UK relationship and ensures tariff- and quota-free trade between the EU and the UK. 

The European Commission has published a Q&A on the contents of the agreements and the ratification process here.

What is in the Withdrawal Agreement [concluded in October 2019]?

The Withdrawal Agreement was concluded in October 2019 and established the terms of the UK's orderly withdrawal from the EU.

Key elements covered by the Withdrawal Agreement include:

  • Financial commitments, and
  • A transition period ending on 31 December 2020, during which the UK will remain part of the EU's Single Market and Customs Union and EU rules and regulations will continue to apply.
  • Existing safeguards for the rights of EU nationals resident in the UK and for UK nationals resident in the EU. 

What does the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland do?

The Withdrawal Agreement includes a Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland, which ensures that we will avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, that the gains of the Good Friday Agreement are protected and the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland's place in it are safeguarded, allowing for a more permanent set of arrangements to address the challenges of Brexit on the island of Ireland.

The provisions of the Protocol are effective as of 1 January 2021.

The Protocol provides that Northern Ireland will remain in the UK customs territory and will also remain aligned to a limited set of EU Single Market rules to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. It ensures enhanced democratic support for the specific arrangements for Northern Ireland.

The Protocol also ensures the continuation of North South cooperation, the pre-existing Common Travel Area (CTA) between Ireland and the UK, the protection of rights, and other sector-specific issues. For more information, please visit our CTA page.

Implementation of the Protocol is overseen by the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, and the Specialised Committee on the Implementation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, which were established under the Withdrawal Agreement.  These are EU-UK committees, where Ireland participates as part of the EU delegation.

On 17 December 2020, the Joint Committee adopted a series of decisions to facilitate the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. These decisions were in relation to:

Following this meeting, the EU released a Q&A on the matters agreed with regard to these matters as well as citizens’ rights, VAT, medicines, the Trusted Trader scheme, meat products, and export certifications.