Brexit: current status

On 23 June 2016, the British people voted to leave the European Union (EU). On 29 March 2017, the British Government formally notified the President of the European Council of this intention to leave. The UK will be leaving the EU two years after that formal notification.

The UK’s notification led to complex, difficult negotiations that ended up with a draft withdrawal agreement between the British Government and the European Council, which the European Council approved on 25 November 2018.

This draft withdrawal agreement concerns managing the consequences of Brexit, including:

  • citizens’ rights
  • the Irish border
  • the financial arrangements
  • managing the transition period

The terms of the future UK-EU relationship have been approved separately from the withdrawal agreement, and became the subject of a joint political declaration that forms the basis for the future partnership.

These two texts were submitted to the British Parliament but could not be approved due to disagreements, in particular on the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland and the political declaration on future relations.

On 17 October 2019, a new agreement was reached between the EU-27 and the UK, which was approved by the European Council on the same day.

On 22 October 2019, the British Parliament voted in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (supposed to implement the withdrawal agreement under British law), but refused the very tight timetable proposed by Boris Johnson to approve the agreement. Johnson has therefore suspended the legislative process for the time being.

On 28 October 2019, the EU27 supported an extension of the Article 50 negotiations until 31 January 2020.

Meanwhile, in Belgium, both the Federal Government and the governments of the federated entities, companies and private citizens are continuing to prepare for all the possible scenarios, including that of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

New relations

Only after Brexit will the EU and the UK be able to negotiate the details of their new relations. In other words, the new form of relations will only become clearer when that fresh phase of negotiations has been completed. We have until 31 December 2020 to reach an agreement on this. Until then, there will be a transition period, in which all EU legislation and regulation remains applicable to the UK. That transition period can, if required, be extended once for a period of two years.

No deal

The provisional Brexit agreement has not yet been approved by all parties. For this reason, Belgium, like all EU member states, is still preparing for the full range of possible scenarios. One of these is that the UK will leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement. In that case, there will not be an agreement in any sector.

The Belgian Federal Government has conducted a stock-taking exercise on which measures will be necessary at all levels to protect Belgian citizens’ and companies’ interests. This exercise identified no fewer than 250 potential measures - regulatory, administrative and technical, financial, or purely informational - to be taken.

The European Commission, in consultation with the EU member states, is preparing the necessary measures to be taken at EU level. Belgium is actively taking part in all these negotiations.