With just a month to go until the end of the Brexit Transition Period, many questions remain unanswered in terms of the UK's on-going relationship with the EU. A free trade agreement which would allow for tariff-free trade between the UK and EU appears some way off, with "serious issues" remaining unresolved – specifically fisheries and state aid laws – and neither side appearing willing to back down. Last minute deals are not unusual in cases of brinkmanship like this (as was seen with the Withdrawal Agreement in 2019) and both sides have a lot to lose if no deal is forthcoming.
Meantime, business is being encouraged to prepare for a "no deal" scenario come 1 January 2021, as well as for changes that will take place regardless of whether a deal is reached. The impact will be felt both financially in terms of the application of tariffs on imports of goods from the EU to the UK and vice-versa, and logistically in terms of delays and additional paperwork. The position as regards the supply of services is more complex, with certain services no longer being able to be provided by UK companies or professionals in one or more EU Member States. On top of that, the end of free movement of persons will impact the amount of time UK nationals can spend in EU countries on business travel and the introduction of the UK's new immigration rules will see work visas being required for EU nationals wishing to work in the UK.
The UK is working to sign up trade deals across the globe – in many cases either mirroring the existing EU trade deals in place or being based on a variation of such deals. Alongside, the continuity deal just announced with Canada, a good example was the UK-Japan trade deal signed in October which was based on the EU-Japan deal but with some additional concessions. The UK exported over £14bn of goods and services to Japan in 2019 so a deal was important. The big prize of a deal with the EU or USA would be the game changer, the latter surely some way off given the many priorities of the new Biden administration.
Our articles below pick up on some of the challenges and issues currently facing businesses and individuals.
For those wanting to hear the latest perspectives, please sign up for our Brexit and Brands webinar on 7 December and catch up with our recently held sessions on Trade and on Data Protection.