Main changeS

Under current EU Customs Union and Single Market rules, trade from and to the UK is both “free” (meaning exempt from tariffs) and “frictionless” (meaning that goods can be moved between EU Member States as easily as they can between cities in the same country).

As of 1 January 2021, however, the UK will leave both the Customs Union and the Single Market, meaning that it will trade with the EU on the same terms as any other non-member country, unless there is prior agreement on preferential arrangements under a new trade deal.

But any such deal will still require the introduction of new border checks and controls (for people, goods and animals) involving new forms of documentation and certification which will need to be completed in advance. Depending on what is agreed, certain tariffs and duties may also be payable.

The Government has published a detailed (100 page) Border Operating Model setting out how these new arrangements will work. This includes provision for controls on entry to the UK to be phased in over a six month period from 1 January 2021. But the current expectation is that there will be no staging of EU requirements, which will accordingly apply in full from day one.

Further information is available at Help and Support if your business trades with the EU.

Businesses should not underestimate the extent of these changes, or the potential for delay and disruption, particularly at the outset.

Subject to what may be agreed in the ongoing future relationship talks, most existing EU food law will continue to apply in the UK from 1 January 2021 as retained European law under the provisions of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The immediate exceptions relate primarily to border arrangements, though further changes may be enacted by the UK Parliament in due course.

Details of what will change from day one are set out in the following sections.

European Government Advice

It is recommended that business users should familiarise themselves with the general information and Frequently Asked Questions on this site, before looking at this more detailed material.

The EU Commission has a portal giving advice by Member State at

It also has its own site here giving details of contingency measures at EU level, including new or temporary legislation and stakeholder notices.

EU food law:

French customs authority:

Dutch government:

Irish government:

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs:

In addition to the material on the sites above, the Irish Government has produced a consolidated report on its preparations as of July 2019: 
Subsequent developments will however be covered on its main website.