Brexit: perspectives


A majority of British voters chose to withdraw the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) in a referendum on 23 June 2016. The EU and the UK concluded a Withdrawal Treaty, which entered into force on the 1st of February 2020. From then on the United Kingdom is no longer a member state of the EU.

The Withdrawal Treaty started a transition period which lasts until 31 December 2020. The Treaty no longer provides for the possibility to extend that period beyond that date. During the transition period, EU rules will continue to apply in the relationship between the EU and the UK. Companies, institutions and individuals from the EU and the UK can therefore continue to trade, travel, reside, and work in the EU and the UK in the exact same conditions as before.

Individuals already resident in the UK or the EU before 31 december 2020, who registered this situation in time, will continue to enjoy broadly the same rights thereafter on the basis of the Withdrawal Treaty. More information on the situation of British individuals in Belgium or Belgian individuals in the United Kingdom can be found on the page ‘Brexit: general situation of individuals’.

During this transition period the EU and the UK are negotiating a second treaty that should govern the future relations between them starting from 1 January 2021. If they do not conclude such treaty before that date, their relations will solely be governed by the general rules of international law. However, even if the UK and the EU conclude such treaty in time, the current status quo will come to an end as the UK will no longer be a member of the European single market and customs union on 1 January 2021. In any scenario, this will create obstacles to the movement of people, goods, services and capital between the UK and the EU as we know it. A treaty between the EU and the UK on their future relations from 1 January 2021 can alleviate, but cannot change, this fundamental change in situation. In addition to public authorities, institutions and individuals, Belgian businesses should also prepare for this upcoming new situation. They can find useful guidelines for this on the website of the Federal Public Service of Economy. In addition, they can consult specific technical readiness notices from the European Commission. These sources explain which concrete changes are to be expected and what preparations should be made.