At midnight Central European Time on Friday 31st January 2020, the United Kingdom will formally withdraw from the European Union. At the same time, the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement, which was passed into UK law as the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 on Thursday 23rd January and approved by the European Union on Wednesday 29th January, will enter into force.

A key feature of the Withdrawal Agreement is the transitional “implementation period” that will initially run until 31st December 2020, but may be extended for a further one-year or two-year period. During this transitional period, the UK will continue to be bound by its prior obligations under international agreements as if it were still an EU member state, and the status quo between the UK and the EU will generally be preserved. This will provide stability, allowing business to continue more or less as usual, while the UK and the EU continue to negotiate the terms of their new relationship.

While these steps are essential for an orderly “Brexit” process, the cooperation of third countries like Canada will also be required. With respect to international agreements between the EU and other countries around the world, it is not enough for the EU, the member states of the EU-27, and the UK to continue to observe their rights and obligations as the EU-28. It is also necessary for the other countries with whom those rights and obligations were established to agree to recognize and abide by this arrangement.

To this end, Global Affairs Canada has issued a notice in today’s publication of the Canada Gazette, Part I (Vol. 154, No. 5, dated 1st February 2020) of Canada’s agreement, by way of a decision taken by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, “to continue to interpret its agreements with the European Union as applying to the United Kingdom as though the United Kingdom were still a member state of the European Union for the duration of the transition period as defined in the Withdrawal Agreement”. This means that, for the duration of the transition period, Canada will maintain its relationship with the UK as if it were an EU member state for the purposes of the WTO agreements, the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and the other bilateral, regional, and multilateral agreements involving both Canada and the EU.