Commission adopts ‘readiness communication’ for end of transition period

The European Commission has adopted a “readiness communication” in anticipation of the end of the transition period set down in the withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU.

The transition period is set to end on December 31 this year, with the EU and UK having until then to agree a free trade deal.

The purpose of the communication – titled “Getting ready for changes” – is to help national authorities and businesses to prepare for the “inevitable changes that will arise at the end of the transition period”.

Changes will occur to cross-border exchanges between the EU and the UK as of January 1, 2021 – irrespective of whether an agreement on a future partnership has been concluded or not.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, commented: “No matter how hard we work towards a close partnership agreement, our relationship will inevitably change.”

Meanwhile, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator in the trade deal talks, said: “Public administrations, businesses, citizens and stakeholders will be affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Following the UK government’s decision not to extend the transition period, we now know that these changes will take place on January 1, 2021 – deal or no deal.”

The communication sets out a sector-by-sector overview – including for agri-food trade – of the main areas that will see changes, regardless of the outcome of the ongoing trade deal negotiations, and sets out measures that national authorities and businesses should take in order to be ready for these changes.

The document is based on changes that would happen anyway, regardless of whether a trade deal is agreed – in other words, the communication does not take account of the far more wide-reaching consequences of no trade deal being agreed.

“Its aim is to ensure that all public administrations and stakeholders are ready and well prepared for the unavoidable disruptions caused by the UK’s decision to leave the EU and to end the transition period this year,” said a commission statement.

The statement added: “The European Commission will work closely with national authorities, businesses and other stakeholders over the coming months to help them prepare for the far-reaching changes that will occur at the end of the year, irrespective of whether an agreement is found.”

Talks on a trade deal between the EU and UK – which have seen precious little process since they kicked off earlier in the year – are continuing this week in London.

The UK is steadfastly sticking to a commitment not to extend the transition period to allow more time to arrive at a deal, despite the disruption to the negotiations arising from Covid-19.