Brexit: EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement applicable since 1 January 2021

After intensive negotiations, the European Commission has reached on 24 December 2020 an agreement with the United Kingdom on the terms of its future cooperation with the European Union.

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 31 December 2020 is already applicable since 1 January 2021. This document contains more than 1000 pages. The European Commission published a summarized brochure called “A new relationship, with big changes”.

The main point concerns the end of free movement of goods between UK and EU:

  • As the UK has left the EU, the UK (excluding Northern Ireland because of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland) is now a third country: customs formalities and checks with all the necessary documentation (health certificates, sanitary and phytosanitary border checks) are now needed between the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) and the EU.
  • However to avoid increase of prices, the TCA provides for zero tariffs on goods that comply with the appropriate rules of origin (case by case analysis, claim for preferential tariff treatment included in the customs import declaration).

Since 1 January 2021 the EU legislation does not apply anymore to UK (excluding Northern Ireland because of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland). However EU legislation as it applied to the UK on 31 December 2020 is now a part of Great Britain (GB) domestic legislation. In concret terms:

  • For the moment, the main European provisions on food law has been converted directly in GB legislation, even if there are some possible specific changes particularly linked to the location (examples: address of the Food Business Operator (FBO) on label, organic logo, health and identification mark, Country of origin, Geographical Indication (GI) logos, …).
  • However, now the GB is able to amend those provisions at national level.

For example, there is particularly an impact on the address of the Food Business Operator (FBO) used on labels of foods :

Foods sold in European Union (EU): All food placed on the EU market since 1 January 2021 have to meet EU rules. Pre-packaged food must have an address for the FBO or importer in European Union or in Northern Ireland on the food label. Concretely, a single address in GB is no longer valid for the EU market.

Foods sold in Great Britain (GB) : it is possible to continue to use an EU, GB or NI address for the FBO on pre-packaged food sold in GB until 31 December 2023. From 1 January 2024, pre-packaged food sold in GB must include a UK address for the FBO (or importer). 

Foods sold in Northern Ireland (NI): Goods sold in NI continue to follow EU rules for food labelling. Pre-packaged food sold in NI must include a NI or EU FBO (or importer) address since 1 January 2021. 

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash