The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU

The withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union entered into force on 1 February 2020.

Any reference in the documents published on this page to 30 March 2019, 13 April 2019 or 1 November 2019 at 00.00 (CET), as the withdrawal date of the United Kingdom from the European Union, must therefore be read as referring to 1 February 2020 at 00.00 (CET).

The withdrawal agreement provides for a transition period, during which EU law will continue to apply to the UK, including obligations from all EU international agreements (as EU international agreements are part of the EU acquis).

Transition period

The transition period, as set out by the withdrawal agreement, guarantees the integrity and homogeneity of the single market and the customs union. The EU will notify its international partners that the UK is an EU country for the purpose of international agreements, including agreements that enter into force during the transition period.

At the end of the transition period, international agreements concluded by the EU will no longer apply to the UK. Free trade agreement provisions remain unaltered for the EU (e.g. market access, tariff rate quotas) and EU traders need to check rules of origin as UK ingredients may no longer be considered of EU origin.

Agri-food trade

The UK and the EU share an important agri-food trading relationship.

EU countries export large volumes of agri-food products to the UK, notably fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, meat products, and food preparations. In 2017, the value of these exports came to €40 billion.

A significant percentage of UK agri-food imports come from the EU (73%), with dairy products, food preparations and meat products the most pronounced EU agri-food products as a share of total UK agri-food imports. Of the UK agri-food imports from the EU, the main provenances are the Netherlands (14%), Germany (11%), Ireland (10%) and France (10%).

Preparing for Brexit

Work to prepare for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom has been ongoing in parallel with the negotiations. More information can be found on the dedicated website for Brexit preparedness.

Regarding agriculture, the European Commission issued a notice to stakeholders on 1 February 2018 on EU food law covering food labelling, food ingredients, requirements for food business operators, food production rules, and organic production.

A further preparedness notice was issued in July 2019 on tariff rate quotas. The notice outlines the changes that would result from EU rules no longer applying to the United Kingdom.

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More information

Agenda of the "Stock taking of civil dialogue group"

Brexit and the agri-food sector – presentation at the "Stock taking of civil dialogue group"

Other civil dialogue groups meetings organised by DG AGRI

Brexit has been on the agenda of many civil dialogue groups meetings with stakeholders over the past year. More recently, Brexit was discussed at the following meetings

Milk market observatory – 13 December 2019

Rice – 10 December 2019

Quality and promotion – 6 December 2019

Starch – 2 December 2019

Fruit and Vegetables – 29 November 2019

Spirits – 29 November 2019

Beef – 26 November 2019

Poultry and eggs – 26 November 2019

Arable crops – 25 November 2019

Sugar – 19 November 2019

Sugar market observatory – 15 November 2019

Pigmeat – 14 November 2019

Sheep and goatmeat, beekeeping – 6 November 2019

International aspects of agriculture – 18 October 2019

Milk – 4 October 2019

Beef – 1 October 2019

Dried fodder and energy crops – 25 June 2019

Meat market observatory – 14 June 2019

Crops market observatory – 3 April 2019

Contingency planning

It is important for stakeholders to assess the various impacts of different scenarios at the end of the transition period.

The failure to reach a trade deal by the conclusion of the transition period would result in both the levying of tariffs on EU products imported into the UK and the levying of tariffs on UK products imported into the EU, which are currently intra-EU sales. This may lead to disturbances of certain markets and impact European Union countries to various degrees.

At the same time, any new trade deal between the EU and the UK will bring about changes that are likely to impact the current trading practices of EU operators.

The common market organisation (CMO) is a set of rules that regulates agricultural markets in the EU. The CMO encompasses legal tools in the event of market disturbances, acting as safety nets, such as public intervention, private storage, crisis prevention and risk management, as well as adopting exceptional market measures.

The European Commission is experienced with implementing such measures at times of market disturbances, such as during the Russian import ban of 2014-16, with the use of measures to address market imbalance (private storage aid, promotion programmes), measures to help farmers in short term cash flow difficulties (targeted aid, advanced payments), state aids, and incentives to reduce production.

State aids regimes can also be solicited to cater for the most damaging effects of a no deal scenario in certain EU countries.

Import and export licences

As of the end of the transition period, European Union rules on the system of import and export licenses will no longer apply to the United Kingdom.

The most significant rules in this regard are Commission delegated regulation (EU) 2016/1237 and Commission implementing regulation (EU) 2016/1239, which set up a system of import and export licenses for a number of products.

As a result of this change, rights and obligations deriving from import and export licences issued by the European Union will expire in the United Kingdom as of the end of the transition period. Similarly, rights and obligations deriving from import and export licences issued by the licensing authorities of the United Kingdom will expire in the European Union.

There will, however, be an exception for licences issued in the framework of WTO tariff rate quotas.

WTO tariff rate quotas

To prepare for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, the UK and EU have followed the appropriate WTO procedures to establish their respective quantitative commitments, which will apply as of the end of the transition period. Most notably the tariff rate quotas (TRQs) will require certain adjustments to reflect the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union. For the EU’s WTO tariff rate quotas, the EU and the UK envisage an apportionment based on historic trade flows.

As part of the preparedness exercise for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union, Regulation (EU) 2019/216 provides a basis for the apportionment of tariff rate quotas included in the schedule of concessions and commitments of the Union annexed to the GATT 1994. The apportionment of the tariff quotas will be implemented by Regulation (EU) 2019/386 and affect the validity of import licenses issued before the date of United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union, as follows:

Licences issued by the United Kingdom: Pursuant to article 2(1) of Commission implementing regulation (EU) 2019/386, rights and obligations deriving from import licences issued and import rights allocated by the license issuing authorities of the United Kingdom under the tariff rate quotas included in the WTO schedule of the Union are no longer valid in the European Union as soon as article 1(2) of Regulation (EU) 2019/216 applies.

Licences issued by EU countries other than the United Kingdom: Rights and obligations deriving from import licences issued and import rights allocated by the license issuing authorities of EU countries other than the United Kingdom remain valid in the Union with the exception of licences transferred to operators established in the United Kingdom, which are no longer valid as soon as article 1(2) of Regulation (EU) 2019/216 applies.

Apportionment of WTO tariff rate quotas: the quantities that are available following the apportionment of those tariff rate quotas shall be published hereunder, as soon as possible and at latest within two working days from the day from which article 1(2) of Regulation (EU) 2019/216 applies.

Related information

Tariff rate quotas

POSEI

To avoid potential disruption of traditional trade flows between outermost regions and the UK after the ending of the transition period, the volumes of processed agricultural products currently sent from the outermost regions to the UK as an EU member will be considered as exports to third countries. At the same time, the United Kingdom has been added to the list of third countries to which the processed products may be re-exported from the Azores and Madeira in the context of regional trade.

Related information

Regulation (EU) 2019/260 as regards the volumes of traditional trade flows between certain outermost regions of the Union and the United Kingdom.

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