The UK left the Customs Union and Single Market arrangement with the EU on 31 December 2020. The Government has begun to replace the word Brexit with EU Exit or end of the Transition Period. Many media reports are continuing to refer to Brexit. We continue to use the term EU Exit for actions relating to the end of the Implementation Phase.

Following the June 2016 UK referendum vote to leave the EU and subsequent Government invocation of Article 50 in March 2017, the UK formally left the EU on 31 January 2020 and entered a Transitional Arrangement with the EU. During this period, the UK remained a member of the Customs Union and Single Market. This meant trade procedures with the remaining EU members (EU 27) did not change. The UK Government and European Commission reached an agreement — called the Trade Cooperation Agreement (TCA) — on 24 December 2020 which came provisionally in place on 1 January 2021. The changes to trade procedures between the UK and the EU 27 are still substantial and came into immediate effect at 11pm GMT on 31 December 2020.

The TCA was signed by the UK Prime Minister and the EU Council and European Commission on 30 December 2020. Legislation was passed in Westminster and the EU (Future Relationship) Act 2020 received Royal Assent early on 31 December 2020 to give legal effect to the Deal. The EU position is more complex as the TCA needs to be ratified by the European Parliament. Due to the exceptional circumstances, the EU Commission proposed to apply the Agreement on a provisional basis, for a limited period of time until 28 February 2021. The provisional basis for the Agreement has been extended to 30 April 2021 to give MEPs more time to scrutinise the 1300-page document. If ratified the TCA will now come fully into force on 1 May 2021; it is expected that there will be some revisions to the text of the Agreement. The TCA in full will be reviewed in 2026.

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