At 11pm GMT on Friday 31 January 2020, the UK will no longer be a member of the European Union. 47 years in the European club of nations will be over. After the UK formally leaves the EU, there will be months of negotiation to follow. While the UK has agreed the terms of its departure from the EU, both parties will need to decide what any future relationship will look like.

This will be worked out during the transition period, which will begin immediately and is due to end on 31 December 2020. During the transition period, the UK will continue to follow all of the EU’s rules and its trading relationship will remain the same. The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice to govern disputes will remain in place. However, with effect from the departure, the UK will no longer be a member of the EU’s political institutions, such as the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

While the Protocol for Northern Ireland/Ireland provides some clarity for trade arrangements on the island of Ireland, if a free trade agreement cannot be agreed at the end of the transition period, the UK will face the prospect of having to trade without a deal. This will result in taxes on UK goods travelling to the EU and other trade barriers. The position in relation to services, a significant contributor to the UK’s GDP, is less clear. In fact, the UK’s burgeoning services industry has been largely forgotten throughout the process. It will surely come sharply into focus during the negotiations over the coming months.

Aside from trade, many other aspects of the future UK – EU relationship will also need to be decided, for example:

  • Law enforcement, data sharing and security
  • Aviation standards and safety
  • Access to fishing waters
  • Supplies of electricity and gas
  • Licensing and regulation of medicines

Businesses will need to prepare for the hard border that will come into place at 11pm GMT on 31 December 2020. We would expect their attention to turn to adjusting supply chains, keeping costs under review and, where necessary, relocating operations.

To help you prepare, ByrneWallace’s dedicated multi-disciplinary team can advise on the possible legal and regulatory implications of Brexit and offers expert-led guidance to both Irish and international clients.