Here’s what Britain’s Brexit trade deal with the EU will change

For businesses, the trade deal between Britain and the European Union comes as a relief, mitigating some of the worst disruption they face, but it won’t be a full substitute for membership of the bloc.

With the U.K. no longer part of the EU’s customs union and single market, trade won’t flow as smoothly as before. Companies will need to file new paperwork, and their products risk being held up at the border. Finance firms will lose their passport to offer services across the EU; and consumers will see their rights to live and stay on the other side of the channel curtailed. Even taking a pet dog to the continent will become more complicated.

Here’s what will change on Dec. 31:


Businesses exporting to the EU will have to file customs declarations. To move goods from Dover to Calais — the U.K.’s busiest crossing point with the EU — truckers will need a government-issued permit showing they have the right paperwork and won’t be held up by French officials.

Faced with the threat of border delays, car makers, aerospace firms and other manufacturers that rely on parts arriving just-in-time have built up their stockpiles. Food makers run the risk that fresh produce could be left to rot in queuing tracks.

Trade in animal products in particular will be subject to new paperwork. Goods will need to move through designated border inspection posts and will require export health certificates issued by a veterinary professional.

While goods moving out of the U.K. will face checks from the year-end, Britain has deferred full import controls on goods coming from the EU until July. But companies will still need to keep records of their transactions and file the customs declarations in July.

City of London

Regardless of the deal, finance firms will lose their passport to offer services across the EU, forcing them to shift staff and beef up their operations in the bloc. Access to customers in the bloc will depend on the EU deeming U.K. rules to be equivalent to its own in 40 areas, something that so far hasn’t happened. Firms can’t be certain permission will be granted — and the EU will still be able to withdraw it with little notice.


Services — which makes up 80 per cent of Britain’s economy and includes sectors such as auditing, architecture and consulting — will face new restrictions. Businesses may need to establish an office in the EU to continue trading, and may need local approval for their professional qualifications.

Rules of origin

To take advantage of zero-tariff trade under the U.K.-EU agreement, companies will need to file documents proving the origin of their goods. Only goods that contain a sufficient quantity of U.K. or EU inputs will be eligible for zero-tariff treatment.


Companies may have to comply with two separate regimes for product standards and regulations, needing approvals from U.K. and EU bodies to have the right to sell in both markets. For example, some goods will need to bear a new U.K. Conformity Assessed (UKCA) mark from Jan. 1, instead of the EU’s CE mark, in order to be sold in Britain.

Passports and pets

British visitors to the EU will need more than six months left on their passport in order to travel. Staying in the EU for longer than 90 days may require a visa.

Motorists may need an international driving permit. Taking your pet to the continent will require you to obtain vaccinations and a health certificate — a process that could take several weeks.




Free movement between Britain and the EU will end. The U.K. is planning to use a ‘points-based’ immigration system, where overseas workers must prove they meet certain criteria before being allowed to come to Britain for a job. The criteria include speaking English, having an existing employment offer and earning more than 20,480 pounds ($ 35,600 Canadian) a year.

Wine and Cigarettes

British travellers heading to the EU will be able to benefit from duty-free shopping in ports and airports. However, it will no longer be possible to bring back unlimited quantities of products such as alcohol and tobacco from the EU, subject to paying the appropriate taxes. Instead, shoppers will have tax-free allowances — 200 cigarettes, 18 litres of wine, and four litres of spirits.