Future relationship between the EU and the UK

The sole purpose of the withdrawal agreement is to ensure the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union. It does not contain any provisions on future EU–UK relations. Negotiations on the future relationship can only be started after the UK has left the EU.

However, Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union requires that an agreement must be concluded with the state that wishes to withdraw from the EU, “taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union.” For this reason, a political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship was negotiated with the UK and approved by the European Council on 25 November 2018. The declaration presents the mutual understanding between the EU and the UK regarding the basis for their future relationship.

The declaration describes the future partnership as close and extensive. It will cover almost all the policy areas in which the parties currently cooperate. The extent of the relationship can only be determined in the course of the negotiations, and it will depend largely on the framework conditions (“red lines”) set by the UK. It is clear that the new relationship will not correspond to EU membership in any area.

The declaration is a political instrument, unlike the legally binding withdrawal agreement. In accordance with Article 184 of the withdrawal agreement, the parties must commit to use their best endeavours to negotiate expeditiously the agreements and arrangements governing their future relationship. This means an obligation to negotiate in good faith, but not an obligation to achieve a specific outcome.

The aim is to have the future relationship in force at the end of the transition period, by the end of 2020. The Council seeks to provide the Commission with the detailed negotiating directives concerning the future relationship as soon as the withdrawal agreement takes effect.