The UK has left the EU and the transition period has now ended. This means that the UK has now left the EU Single Market and Customs Union and EU law no longer applies in the UK.



The Trade and Cooperation Agreement agreed in December changes the basis of our relationship with the European Union block from both the legal and the trade point of view.

This explainer gives an overview of what has changed, and what remains the same, for businesses and individuals across the UK.


Importing and exporting goods

As a consequence of the UK leaving the Single Market and Customs Union, the way businesses in Great Britain trade goods with the EU has changed. To export goods to the EU your business now needs to comply with new customs procedures, including UK export declarations and import requirements on entry to EU Member States. For importing goods into the UK, border controls are being introduced in stages to give businesses time to adapt, with full customs checks applying from January 2022.


You can continue to import and export goods tariff and quota free, provided that those goods meet the ‘Rules of Origin’ requirements set out in the agreement.

These rules relate to the amount of UK or EU content in a particular good and the amount of processing which goods undergo in the UK or EU before export. Together these determine whether goods qualify as UK or EU originating and therefore qualify for zero tariffs and quotas. Goods that have not been sufficiently produced or processed in the UK or EU cannot be re-exported tariff free under the agreement’s preferential tariff rate.

The VAT and excise rules that apply to goods coming into or leaving the UK from/to EU countries and from/to non-EU countries are now the same.


The UK now has autonomy over the technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures required to place products on the UK market. To place goods on the UK market, you will need to meet UK regulatory requirements, and to place goods on the EU market you will need to meet EU regulatory requirements.

Where conformity assessment procedures require approval from a third party conformity assessment body, you will need to obtain certification in both the UK and the EU if your products are to be sold in both. The UK Conformity Assessment (UKCA) mark will be used to demonstrate compliance of products in the UK, whilst the CE mark will continue to be used to demonstrate compliance of products in the EU. To support business in adjusting to this change, the UK is allowing most CE marked goods (reversed epsylon, in the case of aerosol products) to continue to be placed on the GB market until 31 December 2021.



Trade in services and investment

The agreement minimises the administrative barriers and limitations faced by EU and UK investors, service suppliers and business travellers. 

The agreement ensures that no new barriers to trade and investment, such as economic needs tests, will be introduced and includes a general prohibition against discriminatory barriers to trade and investment. The agreement also sets out a right for UK businesses to supply services without having to establish a corporate presence in the EU and vice versa. These commitments are subject to the important limitations or “reservations” set out in the Annexes of the agreement. Consequently, depending on the rules of each EU Member State, new regulations may apply to UK businesses operating in the EU. If in doubt, UK businesses should always check how best to work within the regulations of the countries where they intend to operate.

The agreement also provides a mechanism through which the UK and EU may agree arrangements on the recognition of professional qualifications covering the UK and all 27 EU Member States on a profession-by-profession basis.


If you travel to the EU for work purposes, you should check if you need a visa, a work permit, or other documentation, or to complete declarations for goods or cash you’re taking with you. You will also need to make sure your qualifications are recognised in the country you are operating in. Requirements vary between EU Member States, so always check the guidance.


We are publishing enhanced guidance on EU Member States’ immigration systems on GOV.UK. This guidance will provide UK business travellers with a better understanding of the visa and work permit routes available.


Moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland

There are changes to the way goods move between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The most up-to-date guidance on the Northern Ireland Protocol is available here, including information on moving goods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland, and government support for businesses.


Intellectual Property

As EU law no longer applies in the UK, rules for UK businesses regarding intellectual property have changed. If you have registered rights such as Trademarks, Designs, and Patents your rights will have been converted from EU wide rights to UK rights. You may need to re-register your rights in the EU should you wish to maintain protection there.



Road Transport

The agreement ensures that UK road hauliers will continue to be able to move goods to and from the EU, and carry goods through the EU. There will also be limited rights to carry goods between points in the EU (cabotage). No permits will be required for these operations. EU hauliers will have equivalent rights for the UK.


All drivers, whether commercial drivers or private motorists, should check for any additional documentation requirements. UK driving licences will be recognised by EU countries, and an International Driving Permit (IDP) is not required as long as you have a UK photocard licence. Drivers should also check whether they need an insurance green card.

Back To News