What is a Minister for Brexit

Brexit: the European Commission and the UK have reached an agreement - what does that mean?


The agreements put relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom on a new footing. Never before have such comprehensive agreements between the European Union and a third country been negotiated in such a short time. The United Kingdom will also be an important partner for Germany and the European Union outside of the European Union.

After approval by the Council of the European Union, ratification in the United Kingdom and signature, the agreements are applicable from January 1, 2021 - partly on a provisional basis. This created a seamless transition after the transition phase ending on December 31, 2020. The examination by the European Parliament should take place in early 2021. After its approval, the trade and cooperation agreement can also be ratified and applied permanently.

Which regulations have been agreed?

The European Union and the United Kingdom agreed on three agreements on December 24th: In addition to a broad trade and cooperation agreement, these are an agreement on cooperation in civil nuclear energy and an agreement on information security.

The trade and cooperation agreement establishes a comprehensive economic partnership. This is based on a free trade agreement that does not provide for tariffs or quotas and thus avoids significant trade barriers. In addition, both sides have agreed far-reaching regulations to guarantee fair competition. This applies to the area of ​​state aid as well as competition law and standards in consumer protection, employee protection, and the environment and climate. An assertive dispute settlement was also agreed, with the right to impose sanctions. The European Union and the United Kingdom have agreed on the framework for future cooperation in many areas: for example, goods, services, professional qualifications, intellectual property, public procurement, environmental and energy issues, air, sea and rail freight transport, and social security regulations as well as research and development. The UK will also participate as a third country in a number of EU programs.

A brief tabular overview of the provisions applicable from January can be found here (PDF, 260 KB, in English).

What will happen to the exit agreement?

Following ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement by the European Union and the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom left the European Union on February 1, 2020. The Withdrawal Agreement regulates important issues such as citizens' rights, financial issues and the relationship between Ireland and Northern Ireland. It remains unaffected by the newly negotiated agreement and continues to apply. After the exit agreement, there was a transition phase until December 31, 2020. During the transition phase, EU law basically continued to apply to the United Kingdom, and the same applied to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. During this period, the United Kingdom also remained a member of the EU internal market and the customs union, but was no longer involved in the EU institutions and was only able to take part in their meetings in very limited exceptional cases on a technical level without voting rights.

What happens after the end of the transition phase?

The relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom will change fundamentally from January 1, 2021, and will differ significantly from British membership in the single market.

Information on the main changes can be found in our FAQ here.

Further information for companies

You can read more background information on economic relations with the United Kingdom and the possible effects of Brexit on the German and European economies here.

Further information on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration can be found here.