On 29 March 2017, the United Kingdom notified the European Council of its intention to leave the European Union and commenced the two-year countdown that an exiting Member State has to negotiate an exit deal.  Once this clock starts, it can't be stopped except by unanimous consent of all member states.

Following a request by the UK Prime Minister Theresa May, the European Council agreed on Thursday 21 March to extend the UK's departure date to 22 May 2019, provided the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by the House of Commons by 29 March 2019 at the latest. If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by the House of Commons by then, the European Council has agreed to an extension until 12 April 2019. In that scenario, the United Kingdom would be expected to indicate a way forward before this date.  This means that if the Withdrawal Agreement is not ratified by Friday 29 March, a “no-deal” scenario may occur on 12 April 2019.

Withdrawal Agreement

The Withdrawal Agreement is a draft agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.  It was negotiated between the EU and UK and finalised on 14 November 2018.  There are six parts, three protocols (on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the UK’s Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus and Gibraltar) and nine annexes in the Withdrawal Agreement.  It was endorsed by EU Member State leaders at a special European Council summit on 25 November 2018 alongside the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the UK. 

•         For the UK, the EU Withdrawal Act provides for Parliament to have a 'meaningful' vote on the draft agreement before it is considered by the European Parliament.  There has been considerable debate on the Withdrawal Agreement  in the UK Parliament and it has been put to a ‘meaningful vote’ on two occasions- in January and March 2019.

•          For the EU, the Council of the European Union must authorise the signature of the Withdrawal Agreement, before sending it to the European Parliament for its consent, upon which the Council of the European Union can formally conclude the Withdrawal Agreement.

No-deal scenario Brexit

In a “no-deal” scenario, the UK will become a third country without any transitionary arrangements. All EU primary and secondary law will cease to apply to the UK from that moment onwards. There will be no transition period as is provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement.

In such a scenario, the UK's relations with the EU would be governed by general international public law, including rules of the World Trade Organisation. The EU will be required to immediately apply its rules and tariffs at its borders with the UK. This includes checks and controls for customs, sanitary and phytosanitary standards and verification of compliance with EU norms.  UK entities would also cease to be eligible to receive EU grants and to participate in EU procurement procedures under current terms.

What Next?

If the Withdrawal Agreement is agreed and ratified, most of the legal effects of Brexit will apply as of 1 January 2021.  There is a transition period until the end of 2020 and its terms are set out in the draft Withdrawal Agreement.    The draft withdrawal agreement outlines that this transition can be extended, but only for a period of one or two years (i.e. the end of 2022 at the very latest).  Both the UK and EU must mutually agree to any extension before 1 July 2020 for this to take place.  During this transition, the UK will continue to adhere to EU rules and regulations, will still be in the single market and the customs union but will no longer be members of its institutions.    

In the absence of a Withdrawal Agreement, there will be no transition period and EU law will cease to apply to and in the UK when the UK leaves the EU.

Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the UK

The European Council believes that the provisions of Article 50 TEU do not permit formal negotiations on the future relationship to commence until after the UK has left the EU.  The Political Declaration is is a comprehensive non-binding document which sets out what the future UK-EU relationship might look like across trade and economic cooperation, law enforcement and criminal justice, foreign policy, security and defence and wider areas of cooperation.    


The NSAI Brexit Factsheets are designed to provide concise and clear information on a number of different sectors and likely potential Brexit impacts.  The factsheets are dynamic documents and will be updated as events unfold.  They are not standalone documents but are intended to complement  Brexit guidelines and information prepared by other Government Departments and State agencies.

Current factsheets include:

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EU Commission Brexit Preparedness Notices

Commission Papers

Did you know that the European Commission (EC) has issued a number of notices to businesses and manufacturers on how best to prepare for Brexit?  These notices outline how Brexit would change law and policy in a wide range of sectors. 

The notices state that given the considerable uncertainties, product manufacturers who sell into the Single Market should ensure that their product certification remains valid after the withdrawal date. 

The full list of notices can be viewed here: European Commission > Brexit preparedness