While the seconds before the UK leaves the EU tonight at 11pm, the first part of the Brexit saga comes to an end after three and a half years of political turmoil. However, given that the UK and the EU have agreed on a transitional period until the end of 2020, the legal landscape will remain virtually unchanged until then. From tomorrow, attention will be focused on negotiations on the future trade agreement, which will apply from the end of the transition period between the UK and the EU, provided, of course, that it is possible for both sides to agree on conditions. Otherwise, the UK will face a trade cliff at the end of the year and future trade with the EU will not be in line with WTO (World Trade Organisation) conditions. So what is the amount of the possibility of concluding a free trade agreement with the EU (without tariffs and no quotas for goods)? The EU will publish its negotiating mandate around next week, but it is a sure bet that its two «red lines» will be: (1) a commitment by the UK to maintain its current level of regulation of employment standards, environmental standards and taxation as a «non-regression obligation» and to follow all future EU rules on competition and state aid («dynamic harmonisation»); and (2) an agreement on authorising EU fishing in UK territorial waters. The reason why the EU insists so much on the «Level Playing Ton» commitment described in (1) is that it fears that a deregulated United Kingdom («Singapore-on-Thames») will have huge negative consequences for its economies just on its doorstep. The UK will also publish its own negotiating mandate – probably in the next two weeks – but there have already been a number of comments by Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid that the UK is no longer a `regulator`, which has raised serious concerns among UK companies (car manufacturers, suppliers of pharmaceuticals and food and beverages) , who rely heavily on respect for the EU regulatory landscape to sell their products. While the future «frictionless trade» with the EU has been treated by Theresa May as a holy grail, Boris Johnson seems to be talking much more about the possibility of introducing such non-tariff barriers. Whitehall`s proposals that the UK would even be willing to accept tariff barriers for certain products, since the price of eu-standard derogations was for civil servants in Brussels. The Guardian quotes an unnamed EU official as saying: «If we start talking about tariffs, there is no chance of getting a trade deal before the end of the year, because it is a very complex debate between the Member States.» So the possibility that the UK and the EU will not be able to agree on a future trade deal by the end of the year is still very real… If the UK leaves the EU without having ratified a withdrawal agreement, this will obviously have serious consequences for the EU and the UK.
Preparations by the European Commission to mitigate the effects of a messy or unfinished Brexit began in December 2017 and on 25 March 2019 the Commission declared that its non-brexit «preparation» programme was over. The Commission issued 93 «preparation decisions» and 46 pieces of legislation were proposed or adopted. B in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, which are located in the Schengen area.