Future Relationship Declaration

The EU UK Withdrawal Agreement was accompanied by a political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the UK. It is not binding in international law. It is a declaration of intention also.

The Boris Johnson government made some very critical changes to the Withdrawal Agreement and future relationship declaration. The Theresa May Withdrawal Agreement provided that under the  Northern Ireland backstop, Northern Ireland would remain effectively remain part of the EU customs area and single market for goods and that there would be a customs union between Great Britain and the EU with provisions for a level playing field in relation to regulation.

The Theresa May government’s future relationship declaration contemplated a comprehensive agreement embodying a free-trade area with the regulatory and customs cooperation underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition. The Boris Johnson government pivoted from this position, effectively making the Northern Ireland Protocol specific to Northern Ireland.

The Withdrawal Agreement was amended so that the Northern Ireland Protocol will kick in at the end of the transitional period regardless of whether or not there is a trade or future relationship agreement. It is now limited to Northern Ireland and does not involve Great Britain in a customs union or making binding commitments to a level playing field.

Broad Principles

The EU UK Future relationship declaration which has now been ratified by both the UK Parliament and the EU Parliament seeks to establish an ambitious broad deep and flexible partnership across trade and economic cooperation. There is to be a balanced free-trade agreement at its core. There are also to be agreements in relation to law enforcement, criminal justice, foreign-policy security and defence and wider areas of cooperation.

In accordance with the European Union’s red lines, future relationship is declared to be based on a balance of rights and obligations taking into account the principles of each side. It is to ensure the autonomy of the EU and UK decision-making and be consistent with basic EU principles especially those in relation to the integrity of the single market customs union and the indivisibility of the four EU treaty freedoms (free movement of goods, workers, services and capital) while respecting the Brexit referendum and the development United Kingdom of an independent trade policy.

The EU and UK retain their autonomy and their ability to regulate economic activity in accordance with the level of protection each deems appropriate to achieve legitimate public policy such as public health, animal health and welfare, social services, public education and safely, the environment, including climate change, public morals, social and consumer protection privacy and data protection and the promotion and protection of cultural diversity.

Customs and Goods

It is contemplated that there will be customs procedures and checks to manage the integrity and proper functioning of each of the EU’s and UK’s markets,  separate legal orders and arrangements. Regulatory and customs cooperation is intended to be underpinned by a level playing field for open and fair competition.

The economic partnership should ensure no tariffs fees charges for quantitative restrictions across all sectors with appropriate and modern rules on the origin of goods and ambitious customs arrangements in line with the objectives of each.

While preserving regulatory autonomy the EU and UK are to put in place provisions to promote regulatory approaches there are transparent efficient promote avoidance of unnecessary barriers to trade in goods and are compatible to the extent possible.

Disciplines, technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures should build on the existing World Trade Organisation agreements. They should set out common principles in the fields of standardisation technical regulations conformity assessment and accreditation market surveillance measurement and labelling. Each of the EU and UK should recognise each other as single entities as regards sanitary and phytosanitary measures for certification purposes. They may also explore the possibility of cooperation in relation to the European Medicines Agency European Chemicals Agency and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

The EU and UK contemplate customs arrangements making use of all available facilitative arrangements and technologies which provide protection of their financial and other interests. It is intended that there would be mutual recognition of trusted trader programs, administrative cooperation in customs and VAT and mutual assistance including the recovery of claims related to taxes and duties and the exchange of information to combat fraud.


The EU and  UK have declared their intention to conclude an ambitious comprehensive and balanced arrangements on trade and investment and the services sectors, respecting each other’s power to regulate. They aim to ensure liberalisation in trade in services well beyond the existing WTO commitments  which should build on recent EU free trade agreements.

The EU and UK aim to achieve substantial sectoral coverage covering all modes of supply, providing for non-discrimination in all the sectors covered with exceptions and limits as appropriate. This should include business and professional services, telecommunications, postal services, distribution, environmental services, financial services, and transport services.

The arrangement should include provisions for market access and national treatment by the host state as well as measures to ensure that service providers and investors are treated in a non-discriminatory manner including the right to establish. There should be arrangements to allow the temporary entry and stay of natural persons for business purposes in the areas defined.

As in the case of goods, the EU and the UK should aim to promote regulatory approaches that are transparent efficient and compatible insofar as possible and avoid unnecessary regulatory requirements. It is contemplated that they will agree disciplines and requirements in relation to domestic regulation including provisions on licensing procedures and regulation in certain areas such as those above.

The development of domestic regulation should reflect good regulatory practice. There should be a framework for voluntary regulatory cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including the exchange of and sharing of best practices. There should be appropriate arrangements in relation to professional qualifications that are necessary to pursue regulated professionals.

Services Related Issues

The future declaration agreement also deals with the range of other areas that are dealt with separately in this work. This includes the following

  • assessment of data protection rules with a view to mutual recognition so as to ease data transfers
  • assessment of financial services with a view to recognition of equivalence in areas concerned
  • provisions to facilitate electronic commerce and address unjustified barriers to e-commerce
  • free movement of capital payments in relation to transactions liberalised under the agreement
  • provision for mutual recognition of intellectual property rights
  • mutual opportunities in public procurement in accordance with the WTO government procurement agreement
  • mobility arrangements to facilitate research study training youth exchanges,
  • visa-free travels for short-term visits
  • facilitation of cross-border movements for legitimate travel
  • temporary entry for persons for business purposes in areas defined by the economic partnership
  • arrangements in relation to judicial cooperation in civil and family matters

There are also specific provisions in relation to transport energy and fishing

Level Playing Field Measures

The EU and UK declare that given their geographic proximity and economic interdependence that the future relationship must ensure open and fair competition encompassing robust commitments to ensure a level playing field. The nature of the commitments is to be proportionate to the depth of the future relationship and economic, the connectedness of the EU and the UK. There to prevent distortion of trade and unfair competitive advantages.

The EU and UK are to uphold common high standards equivalent to those of the end of the transition period in the areas of state aid .competition social and employment standards environmental climate change and relevant tax matters. In particular, they are to maintain a comprehensive framework for competition and state aid rules that prevent undue distortion of trading.

The EU and the UK commit to the principles of good governance in the area of tax and curbing of harmful tax practices, maintaining environmental social and employment standards at the current high levels. In so doing they should rely on appropriate EU and international standards and include mechanisms to ensure effective implementation domestically and provide for enforcement and dispute settlement.

There are also detailed proposals in the future relationship political declaration in the areas of security, law enforcement, judicial cooperation foreign-policy security, and defence.

Institutions Management and Enforcement

The future relationship is to be based on an institutional framework that is to be worked out in negotiations. There may be specific governance arrangements in individual areas as well as a framework covering various linked areas. The institutional framework could take the form of an Association Agreement.

The UK and EU to commit to engage in dialogue and establish efficient and effective arrangements for the management, supervision, implementation review and development of their arrangements. There is to be a joint committee responsible for managing and supervising the operation of the future relationship, facilitating the resolution of disputes and making recommendations concerning the evolution of the relationship. The joint committee is to consist of representatives of each of the EU and UK at the appropriate level, establish its own procedures and act by mutual consent.

The EU and UK are to make every attempt to resolve matters concerning the operation of the future relationship to discussion and consultation including to the joint committee. There are to be arrangements for dispute settlement and forcing including expedient problem-solving in certain areas with flexible mediation mechanisms. (Non-binding)

There is to be provision for reference of disputes to an independent arbitration panel and either UK or EU should be able to do so where the joint committee has not arrived at a satisfactory resolution within a defined period. Decisions of the independent arbitration panel act should be binding. Where a dispute raises a question of EU law the European Court of Justice is to have the final decision. There should be temporary remedies for non-compliance.

There are to be exceptions to the commitments of the parties based on national security considerations.

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