The exit procedure of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Brexit) will come to an end on March 29th, 2019. Given the imminence of this deadline, the first negotiations have finally led to an agreement.

The House of Lords promulgated on June 26th of 2018, the law organizing Brexit. This “royal assent” is the final step of the legislative procedure.

It acts that the British Parliament should not reverse its decision. It remains for the British authorities now to reach an agreement to determine, with the European authorities, the terms of Brexit.

A graded Brexit

The European Commission and the United Kingdom issued a joint declaration on June 19th of 2018. It presents the progress achieved during the last negotiation cycle related to Brexit conditions.

On this occasion, the negotiators agreed on the principle of a transition period, especially with regards to customs and VAT aspects. If it applies, this period will extend until December 31st of 2020, allowing the United Kingdom to continue benefiting from the EU Internal Market and Customs Union; thus postponing the restoration of the customs border to January 1st of 2021.

Appendix «y+7» of the joint statement should be highlighted as it sets out a timetable for the end of the application of certain provisions of the European Union Customs Code (UCC), in particular concerning temporary storage, special procedures and transit of goods.

However, this joint statement is only political at this stage. The future official agreement on Brexit is not yet known.

The challenge of an unanimous agreement

Despite the progress of negotiations, the main challenge about the Brexit remains the difficulty of obtaining a common agreement between each EU Member States on one hand and the United Kingdom on the other hand.

It should be kept in mind that:

  • Any bilateral negotiation between the United Kingdom and one of the 27 member States is prohibited;
  • The exit agreement can only be applicable if all provisions are accepted by all parties (and therefore by all EU Member States with no exception);
  • No partial implementation can be considered.

Thus, as the negotiators expressly stated in the joint statement, “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed“.

Regarding customs, French administration has published an article explaining to operators the main customs issues to anticipate, as well as arrangements put in place in France to support operators.

Brexit: A transitional period until 2021?