Where Do I Start?

As of 1 January 2021, the UK will cease to be bound by EU Single Market and Customs Union rules which have applied on a transitional basis under the Withdrawal Agreement since our formal exit on 31 January this year. 

The Government has a dedicated UK Transition webpage, covering citizens and businesses in all sectors. This is structured around navigating to a personalised list of actions based on answers to specific questions about individual circumstances.

The EU has also issued a series of detailed advice notices on How to get ready for the end of Transition together with a Checklist for Traders aimed at businesses in the EU.

Many of the changes described will take effect irrespective of any deal on a future Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the UK and the EU. The primary purpose of an FTA would be to avoid the introduction of tariffs. But it also be likely to cover Rules of Origin and potentially the mutual recognition of standards and so-called level playing field issues.

In brief, ending transition without any future relationship agreement would mean trading with the EU as a normal third country with no preferential treatment in terms of tariffs or anything else in either direction, commonly known as WTO rules. What happens with an agreement will depend on the actual terms of that agreement – on which negotiations are still in progress.


The exception to this is Northern Ireland, where the Protocol to the existing Withdrawal Agreement lays down rules which will apply with or without a wider trade deal. Separate negotiations are taking place on the detailed implementation of the Protocol, which are also still in progress. However the Government has established a specific Trader Support Service which is now open for registration.


At a minimum, businesses who wish to trade with the EU need to do the following

All of these issues are dealt with in more depth in the following sections and frequently-asked-questions sections of this website.

Defra have also published  a new digital guide covering the key actions food and drink businesses may need to take after the end of the transition period (from 1 January 2021). This does not take account of the on-going negotiations of a possible Free Trade Agreement (FTA).  A revised version is expected to be published once further information becomes available.  Not all the actions covered will be relevant to every business and you should still continue to check the link for updates.

The guide is available to download, alongside a range of other digital assets: https://shwca.se/FoodandDrinkTransition

IGD have produced a helpful self contained guidance document here .

Seafish have also produced a self contained guidance on trade in fish and fishery products here.

Further guidance from the  Marine Management Organisation for the UK fish catching sector and for exporters is available here.