The purpose of the withdrawal agreement was to dismantle all cooperation based on the UK’s EU membership in an orderly manner. The future relationship between the EU and the UK was renegotiated separately for each policy sector. The negotiations took place during a transition period that began after the entry into force of the withdrawal agreement (1 February 2020) and ended on 31 December 2020. Provisions on the transition period were laid down in Articles 126–132 of the withdrawal agreement.
Despite the UK’s withdrawal, the EU rules continued to apply during the transition period. The aim was to give citizens and businesses a softer transition to the future relationship.
The main premise was that during the transition period, the UK would still have all the rights and obligations of a Member State. EU and UK citizens and legal persons were treated as though the UK were still a member of the EU.
During the transition period, for example:
- The UK continued to fully respect the EU treaties, EU legislation and EU international treaties and adhere to EU trade, foreign and security policy.
- The UK remained within the EU single market and customs union.
- The free movement of goods, services, capital and persons continued between the EU and the UK.
- The Commission’s supervisory powers, the jurisdiction of the EU Court of Justice and the powers of EU bodies and agencies in relation to the UK remained unchanged.
- The UK’s obligations vis-à-vis the EU budget remained unchanged.
The only significant exception was that the UK no longer participated in the activities of EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies as of the day of the withdrawal (from 1 February 2020), meaning that it no longer took part in EU decision-making during the transition period.