On 30 March 2019, the United Kingdom will leave the EU and become a third country. This will have repercussions for citizens, businesses and administrations in both the United Kingdom and the EU. These repercussions range from new controls at the EU's outer border with the UK, to the validity of UK-issued licences, certificates and authorisations and to different rules for data transfers.
Today's text calls on Member States and private parties to step up preparations and follows a request by the European Council (Article 50) last month to intensify preparedness at all levels and for all outcomes.
While the EU is working day and night for a deal ensuring an orderly withdrawal, the UK's withdrawal will undoubtedly cause disruption – for example in business supply chains – whether or not there is a deal. As there is still no certainty that there will be a ratified withdrawal agreement in place on that date, or what it will entail, preparations have been ongoing to try to ensure that the EU institutions, Member States and private parties are prepared for the UK's withdrawal. And in any event, even if an agreement is reached, the UK will no longer be a Member State after withdrawal and will no longer enjoy the same benefits as a member. Therefore, preparing for the UK becoming a third country is of paramount importance, even in the case of a deal between the EU and the UK.
Having said that, preparing for the UK's withdrawal is not only the responsibility of the EU institutions. It is a joint effort at EU, national and regional levels, and also includes in particular economic operators and other private parties – everyone must now step up preparations for all scenarios and take responsibility for their specific situation.
On 29 March 2017, the United Kingdom notified the European Council of its intention to leave the European Union. Unless a ratified withdrawal agreement establishes another date or the European Council, in accordance with Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union and in agreement with the United Kingdom, unanimously decides that the Treaties cease to apply at a later date, all Union primary and secondary law will cease to apply to the United Kingdom from 30 March 2019, 00:00h (CET) ('the withdrawal date'). The United Kingdom will then become a third country.
Stakeholders, as well as national and EU authorities, therefore need to prepare for two possible main scenarios:
- If the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified before 30 March 2019, EU law will cease to apply to and in the UK on 1 January 2021, i.e. after a transition period of 21 months.
- If the Withdrawal Agreement is not ratified before 30 March 2019, there will be no transition period and EU law will cease to apply to and in the UK as of 30 March 2019. This is referred to as the "no deal" or "cliff-edge" scenario.
Over the past year, the Commission has screened the entire Union acquis (body of EU law) to examine whether any changes are needed in light of the UK's withdrawal. To that effect, the Commission has adopted (and will adopt whenever necessary) specific, targeted legislative proposals to ensure that EU rules continue to function smoothly in a Union of 27 after the UK's withdrawal. The Commission has also published over 60 sector-specific preparedness notices to inform the public about the consequences of the UK's withdrawal in the absence of any withdrawal agreement. Finally, by 30 March 2019 the two London-based agencies – the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority – as well as other UK-based bodies, like the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre, will be leaving the UK and a number of tasks performed by UK authorities will also have to be reassigned away from the UK.
The Commission's preparedness work is coordinated by the Commission's Secretariat-General.
For more information: