Yesterday, the European Parliament ratified the Withdrawal Agreement which sets out the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU: this was the last remaining step to completing the Brexit process.

The UK will now officially renounce its EU membership at 11pm GMT today, ending 47 years of integration with the EU. The UK will now enter a transition period until 31 December 2020 (which may only be extended once, for up to 1 or 2 years, if agreed before 1 July 2020), during which EU law and the rulings of the European Court of Justice will continue to apply within and to the UK although the UK will no longer be a EU Member State.

The EU has stated it “wants to have the best possible relationship with the United Kingdom”, but it might be difficult to reconcile the opposing positions that the UK and EU have appeared to adopted in how they propose to approach the post-Brexit trade negotiations (due to start on 3 March 2020). In particular, the level playing field obligations that the EU propose go far beyond those contained in other FTAs and are likely to be one of the most difficult and contentious issues in the forthcoming negotiations.

Whatever the outcome of the post-Brexit negotiations, businesses will need to be prepared for all eventualities. Please see our Brexit Legal Guide (currently being revised) for information on what Brexit means for the UK and the future. Next week we will be releasing updated versions of the following sections: Leaving the EU: The Process and Preparations and The Withdrawal Agreement Q&A.