News article

Brexit: Existing trade agreements if the UK leaves the EU without a deal

3 October 2019


Information for businesses on the status of continuity trade agreements should the UK leave the EU without a deal

The UK government is in the process of transitioning existing trade agreements of which the UK participates as a member of the European Union.

The government has produced a list of signed continuity agreements that will be in place by exit day and a list of agreements that will not be agreed by that time. This allows businesses to prepare for every eventuality.

These agreements cover a wide variety of relationships, including:

  • free trade agreements (FTAs)
  • economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with developing nations
  • association agreements - these cover broader economic and political co-operation
  • trade agreements with countries that are closely aligned with the EU
  • mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) - parties mutually recognise conformity assessment procedures

Businesses in the UK and partner countries are eligible for a range of preferential market access opportunities under the terms of these agreements. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • preferential duties for goods, including reductions in import tariff rates and quotas for reduced or nil rates of payable duties
  • quotas for the import of goods with more relaxed rules of origin requirements
  • enhanced market access for service providers
  • protection from discrimination in public procurement opportunities across a range of sectors
  • allowing parties to mutually recognise conformity assessment procedures
  • the ability to complete mandatory inspections and tests on products close to the place of production
  • common standards on intellectual property

Signed UK trade agreements
The UK has signed a number of trade agreements with non-EU countries.

These agreements have replicated the EU trade agreements as far as possible. However, there may be some changes to ensure that new agreements work for both countries.

The list of signed agreements is available on the GOV.UK website and will be updated as further agreements are signed.

Ongoing engagement on trade agreements
The government is working with partner countries to bring into force bilateral agreements that will ensure continuity for the effects of existing EU trade agreements.

But all of these replacement agreements may not be ready in time if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

You can find a list of countries and the status of bilateral agreement discussions on the GOV.UK website.

Steps your business can take to prepare
Without arrangements to maintain preferences, trade will take place on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms. The GOV.UK website has more detail on the potential implications for aspects of trade such as:

  • new UK ‘Most-Favoured-Nation’ (MFN) tariff schedules for imports
  • non-preferential tariff rates for exports
  • services trade outbound from the UK
  • legal protection from discrimination in public procurement
  • provisions to promote, protect and liberalise investment
  • mutual recognition for conformity assessments 

The UK also participates in the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), which allows some countries to receive preferential access to the UK market. The government intends to continue the existing market access provided by these unilateral preference schemes, allowing the current beneficiaries to export to the UK after EU exit on the same terms as at present.

You can find details of non-EU countries with whom the UK currently has arrangements for preferential trade, including both free trade agreements and unilateral preferences.