United Kingdom–European Union relations
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United Kingdom
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Political system of the European Union
Political system of the European Union

As of January 2021, the United Kingdom's post-Brexit relationship with the European Union and its members is governed by the Brexit withdrawal agreement and the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The latter was negotiated in 2020 and has applied since 2021.

Following the UK's withdrawal from the EU on 31 January 2020,[a] the UK continued to conform to EU regulations and to participate in the EU Customs Union during the "Brexit transition period", which began on 1 February 2020 and ended on 31 December 2020. This allowed for a period of time to negotiate a bilateral trade agreement between the UK and the EU.


Further information: Trade negotiation between the UK and the EU

The UK has decided to withdraw from the single market, the customs union. Furthermore for all international agreements the EU entered into, the EU participation does not include the UK since 1 January 2021.[1]

Those definitive changes could create difficulties which might be under-estimated, according to Michel Barnier:[1]

Post-Brexit negotiations have tried to create an ambitious pact between the UK and the EU to avoid disruption as much as possible, according to Michel Barnier.[1]

UK membership of the European Economic Area

Main article: Membership of United Kingdom in the European Economic Area

The UK could have sought to continue to be a member of the European Economic Area, perhaps as a member of EFTA. In January 2017, Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, announced a 12-point plan of negotiating objectives and said that the UK government would not seek continued membership in the single market.[2][3]

WTO option

Main article: No-deal Brexit

The no-deal WTO option would involve the United Kingdom ending the transition period without any trade agreement and relying on the most favoured nation trading rules set by the World Trade Organization.[4] The Confederation of British Industry said such a plan would be a "sledgehammer for our economy",[5][6][7] and the National Farmer's Union was also highly critical.[8] Positive forecasting for the effects of a WTO Brexit for the UK cite other countries' existing WTO trade with the EU and the benefits of repossessing full fishing rights for a maritime island nation.[9][10][11]



The EEA Agreement and the agreement with Switzerland cover free movement of goods, and free movement of people.[12][13] Many supporters of Brexit want to restrict freedom of movement;[14] the Prime Minister ruled out any continuation of free movement in January 2017.[3]

Northern Ireland

For broader coverage of this topic, see Brexit and the Irish border.

One aspect of the final withdrawal agreement is the specific or unique status of Northern Ireland.[15] The Northern Ireland Protocol that is part of the agreement provides (inter alia)

According to Michel Barnier, this might raise issues for Northern Irish companies which need the UK to deliver clarity on this topic.[1]

A joint EU–UK committee, headed by Michael Gove,[19] Minister for the Cabinet Office, and Maroš Šefčovič, a Vice-President of the European Commission,[1] oversees the operation of the arrangement.


  1. ^ GMT, 1 February CET

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Press corner". European Commission - European Commission.
  2. ^ Wilkinson, Michael (17 January 2017). "Theresa May confirms Britain will leave Single Market as she sets out 12-point Brexit plan". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 January 2017. (pay wall)
  3. ^ a b "The government's negotiating objectives for exiting the EU: PM speech". gov.uk. 17 January 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  4. ^ LeaveHQ. "What's wrong with the WTO Option?". leavehq.com.
  5. ^ O'Carroll, Lisa; Boffey, Daniel (13 March 2019). "UK will cut most tariffs to zero in event of no-deal Brexit". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 March 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  6. ^ Glaze, Ben; Bloom, Dan; Owen, Cathy (13 March 2019). "Car prices to rise by £1,500 as no-deal tariffs are revealed". walesonline. Archived from the original on 29 March 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  7. ^ "No-deal tariff regime would be 'sledgehammer' to UK economy, CBI warns". Aol.co.uk. Archived from the original on 29 March 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  8. ^ "This is why farmers are suddenly very worried about a no-deal Brexit". The Independent. 13 March 2019. Archived from the original on 29 March 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  9. ^ "Battle lines being drawn over fishing rights". BBC News. 27 February 2020.
  10. ^ "The benefits of a WTO deal". Briefings For Britain. 10 January 2019.
  11. ^ Davis, Charlotte (25 January 2019). "'No problem with WTO!' Brexiteer MASTERFULLY dismantles no deal Brexit scare stories". Express.co.uk.
  12. ^ "Free Movement of Capital", EFTA.int Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  13. ^ "Free Movement of Persons", EFTA.int Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  14. ^ Grose, Thomas. "Anger at Immigration Fuels the UK's Brexit Movement", U.S. News & World Report, Washington, D.C., 16 June 2016. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  15. ^ a b Lisa O'Carroll (17 October 2019). "How is Boris Johnson's Brexit deal different from Theresa May's?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  16. ^ a b "Brexit: EU and UK reach deal but DUP refuses support". BBC News. 17 October 2019. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  17. ^ a b c d Parker, George; Brunsden, Jim (11 October 2019). "How Boris Johnson moved to break the Brexit deadlock". Financial Times. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  18. ^ a b c "Brexit: What is in Boris Johnson's new deal with the EU?". BBC News. 21 October 2019. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  19. ^ "Prime Minister confirms ministerial leads for UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee". GOV.UK. 1 March 2020. Retrieved 4 April 2020.