Western Europe

The United Kingdom and the EU

22/01/2021 - 12:00
EU relations with Country

The EU's Relations with the UK

In March 2017, the UK notified to the President of the European Council its intention to leave the European Union. This opened the negotiation on withdrawal as foreseen in Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union. On 17 October 2019, EU and UK negotiators reached an agreement on the Withdrawal Agreement and a Political Declaration on the future relationship. The Withdrawal Agreement entered into force on 1 February 2020. Since then, the UK has left the European Union.

However, the Withdrawal Agreement also provided for a transition period lasting until 31 December 2020, during which EU law still applied to and within the UK. As of 1 January 2021, the UK is not bound anymore to EU law and has become to all effect a third country vis-à-vis the EU.

A new relationship based on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement

During the transition period, the EU and UK engaged in intensive negotiations to define their future relationship, which led to the signature on 30 December 2020 of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). The Agreement is provisionally applied as of 1 January 2021, and will enter into full force as soon as the European Parliament will give its consent.

The TCA provides a comprehensive framework for the future EU-UK relationship and consists of four main pillars:

  1. a Free Trade Agreement (with zero tariffs and zero quotas on all goods that comply with the appropriate rules of origin);
  2. an ambitious cooperation on other economic issues, including provisions related to investments, competition, state aid, tax transparency, air and road transport, energy and sustainability, fisheries, and social security coordination;
  3. a new partnership for citizens' security through police and judicial cooperation; including data protection and exchange; and
  4. a comprehensive governance system

The Commission’s website provides more information about the Withdrawal Agreement and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Cooperation on foreign policy and defence

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement also contains important CFSP elements, such as provisions on cooperation in supporting democracy, rule of law, human rights, prevention and prosecution of serious crimes of concern to the international community, climate change, disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the fight against the trafficking of small arms and light weapons, counter-terrorism and cybersecurity. The EU and the UK also agreed a Security of Information Agreement, which complements the TCA and enables the exchange and protection of classified information between the Parties.

Guided by common principles and values in their external actions, the EU and the UK will remain close partners, both bilaterally and in the advancement of the multilateral agenda to address common security challenges and opportunities. The EU looks forward to a close cooperation with the UK in the UN and other multilateral structures, including in the framework of the 2021 G7 UK Presidency. The importance of cooperation on climate change is also of utmost importance. The EU and the UK will work together to make a success of the COP 26 to be held in Glasgow in 2021.

Editorial Sections: