Last reviewed 15 July 2020

Reports coming from the negotiations between the UK and the EU about their future relationship suggest that they are not going well with little sign of compromise as the deadline for concluding an agreement is now only months away.

There remains a definite possibility that no deal will be agreed before the deadline — technically 31 December 2020 (the end of the transition period) but in reality more likely to be late October to allow both sides time to ratify any agreement.

Now, the European Commission has warned that changes will occur to cross-border exchanges between the EU and the UK as of 1 January 2021— irrespective of whether an agreement on a future partnership has been concluded or not. (This mirrors a warning from the UK Government — see The border with the EU: imports and exports in 2021.)

The EU’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, said: “Public administrations, businesses, citizens and stakeholders will be affected by the UK's decision to leave the EU. Following the UK Government's decision not to extend the transition period, we now know that these changes will take place on 1 January 2021 — deal or no deal.”

The Commission has accordingly published “Getting ready for changes” which sets out a sector-by-sector overview of the main areas where businesses and other organisations need to prepare and sets out the measures that they should take in order to be ready for the expected developments.

The guidance can be found at https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/brexit_files/info_site/com_2020_324_2_communication_from_commission_to_inst_en_0.pdf.

It looks at the customs formalities, checks and controls that will need to be imposed with regard to trade in goods.

The Commission warns: “Customs formalities required under Union law will apply to all goods entering the customs territory of the Union from the UK, or leaving that customs territory to the UK. This will happen even if an ambitious free trade area is established with the UK, providing for zero tariffs and zero quotas on goods, with customs and regulatory cooperation.”