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BREXIT - Negotiations through COVID-19

While COVID-19 is at the forefront of all political, economic and public debates, Brexit deadlines are fast approaching. Find the latest overview here:


The initial withdrawal agreement negotiated by former prime minister Theresa May confirmed the transition period and other aspects of the UK's departure, which saw the UK officially leave the EU on 31st January.

The arrival of Boris Johnson as prime minister resulted in some changes being made to the withdrawal agreement, namely around a customs border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Some goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain will be subject to checks and will have to pay EU import taxes (known as tariffs). If goods remain in Northern Ireland (so not being moved to the Republic of Ireland), these tariffs will be refunded.

From an international trading perspective, nothing changes until 31st December 2020.

During this transition period, the EU regulations, which the UK works within in relation to customs, VAT and excise, will continue exactly as they were while negotiations as to the possible options of an agreement between the UK and the EU continue.


  • A free trade agreement is negotiated

    - This would eliminate most tariffs on industrial goods to move around the EU without checks or extra charges.
    - The UK’s aim is to negotiate the freest possible access to the single market and services
    - Numerous options are on the table, such as the possible adaptation of one of the existing models in place:
        1. An EU–UK Economic Area (‘Bespoke Norway’), which would see the UK accept single market rules and parallel institutions, but negotiate a new agreement on freedom of movement and more input on regulatory issues (without final say).

        2. An EU–UK Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (‘Reverse Ukraine’), which would allow the UK participation in the single market sectors which are aligned. Non-harmonised sectors would face barriers.

        3. An EU–UK Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (‘Canada plus’), which would be modelled on the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), but with the aim of agreeing better access for services and allow for enhanced regulatory cooperation

  • A ‘No Deal’

    - This would mean trading on WTO terms with tariffs (taxes) on UK goods travelling to the EU and other trade barriers.
    - Read our short ‘No Deal’ Brexit Q+A here
  • An extension of the ‘transition period’

    - Both sides would need to agree to extend the transition period by up to one or two years before 1st July 
    - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is adamant that the UK will leave the EU’s single market and customs union by 31st December come what may and that the UK will not request an extension



  • Due to Covid-19, all European commission briefings between Brussels, its EU representatives, and its UK counterparts are made remotely via video conference.
  • The previous schedule for negotiating rounds has been dropped due to social distancing measures.
  • On 18 March, the EU shared with the United Kingdom a full draft legal text for an economic and security partnership based on points outlined in the previously confirmed withdrawal agreement.
  • The UK has so far not responded in full, but has responded to Brussels with select proposals addressing some areas that so far have remained confidential.
  • Ahead of 30th June 2020, only two rounds of negotiations between the UK and the EU are left - in the weeks of 11 May and of 1 June - which will have to see significant progress made to bring both parties closer to the desired agreement.

30 June 2020: 

  • Discussions around an extension of the transition period would need to be held and implemented on or before 30th June 2020.
  • The month of June will be key for the UK to make progress on the implementation of the proposed border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
    • The specialised Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland was held today (30 April) in preparation for this - please find the official report here
  • The agreement made between Boris Johnson and the EU declares for the following to be decided throughout June and by 1st July 2020:
    • Both sides need to agree on a deal to access UK fishing waters, access of which is of particular importance to about eight coastal states
    • Access to each other's financial services markets to be agreed 

November 2020: 

  • According to EU officials, a trade deal must be negotiated, checked, translated and presented to the European Parliament by the last week of November if it is to be put through by the end of the year.

31st December 2020: CRUNCH DATE

2021 onwards:

  • While the core deal is sought to be secured by 31st December, talks are expected to continue into 2021 with complementary agreements to be added which will supersede some of the temporary agreements that may have to be put in place.

If you have questions or would like to chat through Brexit supply chain planning, please contact our dedicated team here. 

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