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On 29 March 2017, the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) began the process of leaving the European Union (EU). The UK and the EU negotiated the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union in October 2019. On 17 October 2019, the European Council endorsed the revised agreement. Following the general election in the UK in December 2019, the UK Parliament will endorse the agreement in January 2020. The European Parliament will endorse the agreement on 29 January 2020.

In keeping with the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, the United Kingdom will thus leave the EU on 31 January 2020 in an orderly manner. The agreement provides legal certainty even after EU treaties and EU law cease to apply to the UK. It will expire at the end of the transition period, on 31 December 2020. With the consent of both parties, the transition period may potentially be extended.  

Despite the fact that, as of 1 February 2020, the UK will no longer be an EU Member State, the transition period in principle provides for the continuation of all activities as if the UK remained in the EU. During this period, the entire Union acquis will continue to apply to the United Kingdom and in the United Kingdom. This means that the UK will continue to be part of the EU Customs Union and the Single Market (with all four freedoms) and comply with all EU policies. Among other provisions, the Agreement provides for the continued safeguarding of citizens’ rights on both sides, the rights arising from the system of social security coordination, possibility of travel to the UK in accordance with the arrangements in force (valid personal identity card), etc.

The Withdrawal Agreement sets out a path for the United Kingdom to smoothly transition from being an EU Member State to becoming a third country. The purpose of the transition period, expected to last until the end of 2020, is to provide sufficient time to negotiate new future relations. The EU and the UK will launch negotiations on all the areas laid out in the Political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom immediately following the UK’s exit from the EU.

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