News article

Brexit: Trading under WTO rules

5 February 2020


Guidance for trading with other countries if there is no UK trade agreement in place on 1 January 2021

If there is no trade agreement between the UK and another World Trade Organisation (WTO) member after the transition period, you will have to trade with that country under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Existing trading arrangements

The EU has issued a notification to third countries stating that the UK is to be treated as a member state for the purposes of EU trade agreements during the transition period.

After the transition period ends, EU trade agreements will no longer apply to the UK. The UK is seeking to reproduce the effects of these existing EU trade agreements, in order to ensure continuity of trading arrangements for UK businesses.

Find out more about UK trade agreements with non-EU countries.

WTO and the Most Favoured Nation rule
WTO rules state that the same trading terms must be applied to all countries, unless there is a trade agreement between two or more countries. This is known as Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment.

MFN means that the UK cannot offer better trading terms to one country and not to WTO members, unless, for example, it has a trade agreement.

Paying tariffs on imported goods into the UK
After the transition period, you may need to pay different rates of tariffs on imports into the UK.

Paying tariffs on exports from the UK
After the transition period, an importer in another country may need to pay different rates of tariffs on exports from the UK.

The tariffs on your exports will vary by country. Each country decides their own import tariffs. If you are exporting a product to a country that the UK has no trade agreement with after the transition period, the importer will pay the non-preferential tariff rate applied in that country to its imports.

Trading services
To provide services in other countries you will need to follow the terms set out in the legislation of the host country. This includes commitments that the host country applies to all WTO members.

Public procurement contracts
Find out about the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) during the transition period.