The Brexit process continues to move forward towards Friday, January 31st 23:00 GMT. On Friday this week, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union after 46 years as a member.
This week the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) has been approved by the House of Commons, the House of Lords and it has been signed by the Prime Minister, followed by the Queens Royal Assent which makes the WAB official legislation in the UK. Brexit is by that formally ratified on the British side.
Furthermore the heads of the European Commission and Council - Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel - have signed the Withdrawal Agreement, ahead of the UK's exit from the EU on 31 January. After that WAB also received consent in a vote by Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) which means that the committee recommends the European Parliament to ratify the exit deal on Wednesday 28 January. This is the final formal activity to get Brexit done on Friday this week.
The UK has agreed to abide by EU rules during a transition period until the end of the year. By January 1st 2021, UK aims to have agreed on a deal on future ties. Brexit ends 46 years of UK as member of the EU club.
On Saturday, February 1st this week, Brexit also enters the next phase. After four years’ United Kingdom and EU have agreed on the exit. Now Future Relations, a Free Trade Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement need to be negotiated and agreed. In parallel with the negotiation, the UK will have to develop and implement its new Customs processes and procedures, the border processes and the necessary infrastructure for the borders.
EU has sent out and discussed its negotiation position within the EU 27 Member States and a mandate is was given to the EU Chief negotiator, Michel Barnier and his team.
UK Government is preparing its position and shaping its organization for the upcoming negotiations. We already know that a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is the end goal and that the FTA has to be agreed during the transition period, now in UK called implementation period, of eleven months since the Withdrawal Agreement Bill now formally in UK legislation includes a paragraph making it impossible to extend this period.
Also, a Joint Committee for the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement will be set-up shortly and this committee will discuss and propose how to (in details) handle trade to and from Northern Ireland since it according to the agreement is situated in two Customs territories and Customs Unions at the same time. This is a unique situation and thus challenge that has not happened before.
I believe that it is essential to mobilize the Customs and Border community globally with international experts, together with the expertise in EU and UK, to support the parties in the design and development of the most advanced customs and border solution possible within the framework of the international law.
If we do so now, there is a chance to solve the critical issues for international trade. In the meantime, companies need to prepare properly for the new procedures, remember that the consequences of Brexit (good and bad) are only 339 days away.
MD/CEO KGH Global Consulting