Brexit: where do we stand?

The United Kingdom wants to leave the European Union (EU) at midnight (Dutch time) on 31 January 2020. On 17 October the UK and the EU reached an agreement on the conditions for the UK’s departure from the EU (Brexit) and a transition period. This agreement must be approved by both the UK parliament and the European Parliament before it can enter into force. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s general election victory on 12 December makes it likely that the agreement will be approved by the UK parliament. The UK House of Commons approved the agreement by a large majority on 9 January. The agreement will be debated in the House of Lords in the next few weeks. If both houses approve the agreement, the European Parliament will vote on it in January.

Transition period (if the agreement is approved)

If the UK parliament and the European Parliament vote in favour of the Brexit agreement, the UK will leave the EU at midnight (Dutch time) on 31 January 2020. This will be followed by a transition period, which will last until 31 December 2020. During this period, all EU rules and regulations will continue to apply to the UK. Virtually nothing will change for businesses or for the public. This will give everyone more time to prepare themselves for the new agreements that the EU and the UK will conclude concerning their future relationship after 31 December 2020. If both the UK and the EU agree, this transition period may be extended once by two years, meaning it could remain in place until 31 December 2022. Prime Minister Johnson has said, however, that he will not seek an extension.

Read the Withdrawal Agreement of 12 November 2019 on the website EUR-lex (the web portal for European Union legislation).

The agreement covers a range of issues, including:

  • the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British nationals in the EU (for the moment, little – if anything – will change for these people);
  • the amount the UK will contribute to the EU budget (and for how long);
  • the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
  • the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

You can read more about the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British nationals in the EU in a document published by the European Commission. You can download the document in English and Dutch.

New relationship

Only after Brexit can the EU and the UK start negotiating the details of their future relationship. This will include agreeing on what conditions will apply to EU-based companies that want to do business in and with the UK after the transition period. Negotiations will also take place on citizens’ rights and cooperation on security.

There will be more clarity on the new relationship between the EU and the UK only once this phase of the negotiations has been completed. The new agreements will enter into force after the transition period, which will end on 31 December 2020. These new agreements, too, will have to be approved by the individual member states, the UK parliament and the European Parliament. If no agreement is reached about the future relationship between the UK and EU, there will be a ‘no deal’ Brexit after the transition period.

The Netherlands does not negotiate with the UK directly. The EU negotiates on behalf of the 27 member states that will remain in the Union after the UK leaves.

If no agreement is concluded (‘no deal’ scenario)

Although there is still a possibility that no approved agreement with the UK on Brexit will be in place by 31 January 2020 (‘no deal’ scenario), Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s election victory and the House of Commons’ approval have made this highly unlikely. Not until the end of the transition period (on 31 december 2020) there will be a new chance of a no deal scenario.

Brexit timelineKey dates in the Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU: