Since 1 February 2020, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is no longer a member state of the European Union. After 47 years of membership and almost three years after the formal request for withdrawal, the United Kingdom will leave the EU on 31 January 2020.
At the same time, the withdrawal agreement ratified by the United Kingdom and the EU entered into force. The withdrawal agreement provides for a transition period until the end of 2020. In general, during this time, the status quo is upheld. The United Kingdom will continue to be treated as a member state without being allowed to co-govern in Brussels. The more than three million EU citizens in the UK and one million Britons in the EU will be able to continue to live as before. This applies to the right of residence, employment and family reunification.
Nothing will change in terms of travel to the United Kingdom until 31. December 2020 either. A valid identity card or passport will still be sufficient for entry into the UK. There have already been border controls in the past because the United Kingdom is not part of the Schengen area. Germans are still covered by their health insurance when travelling to the UK until the end of the year and their driving licence is still valid.
The agreement could have been extended once for two years until 31 December 2022. However, an extension has always been considered unlikely and was finally rejected by the British government in June 2020. In fact, the British House of Commons had already ruled out the possibility of a two-year extension with the implementation act for the withdrawal agreement.
EU relations with the United Kingdom after 31. December 2020
Since March 2020, the EU Commission and the British government have been negotiation on their future relationship. The basis for the negotiations is the political declaration agreed in the withdrawal agreement, which sets out the framework for future relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom. The end of negotiations was planned to be no longer than October 2020 in order to be able to ratify the agreement by the parliament. However, due to certain difficulties, including the divergent opinions of the parties in regard of their future relationship and including difficulties arising out of the current global corona pandemic, the deadline for an agreement has been postponed several times. On 17 December 2020, the EU parliament set another deadline to 20 December 2020. However, as reported by insiders, the parties seem to be unwilling to agree on crucial issues. An agreement is therefore considered unlikely.
The phase between July and December 2020 falls under the German EU Council Presidency.
It is very likely that a free trade agreement will be sought as well as an agreement on fair competitive conditions, especially in the areas of social, environmental and tax standards (the so-called Level-Playing-Field). Furthermore, divergencies exist in regard of the issue of fisheries and the implementation of a consistent governance structure. Ultimately, however, the negotiations are unprecedented and it remains to be seen what the EU Commission and the UK are able to agree on in the short time available or whether they are able to agree at all.