Trading with the UK during the transition period and in 2021

Information on the UK’s departure from the EU for international businesses that invest and sell goods and services in the UK

Last updated 06 February 2020

The transition period

Exporting goods and services to the UK

Investing and operating in the UK

The transition period


The UK has left the EU. There is now a transition period until the end of 2020 while the UK and EU negotiate additional arrangements.

The current rules on trade, travel, and business for the UK and EU will continue to apply during the transition period.

New rules will take effect on 1 January 2021.

Exporting goods and services to the UK

Trade agreements

The Withdrawal Agreement sets out how the UK is able to continue to be covered by EU-third country trade agreements during the transition period. On this basis, EU trade agreements can continue to apply to the UK.

After the transition period ends, EU trade agreements will not apply to the UK. The UK is seeking to reproduce the effects of existing EU agreements for when they no longer apply to the UK.

This will ensure continuity of trading arrangements for UK and overseas businesses.

Check the status of our current signed trade agreements on GOV.UK.

Back to top

Customs processes

Non-EU countries

During the transition period, there will be no change to customs processes for goods imported to the UK from non-EU countries.

Further information on customs processes between the UK and non-EU countries after the transition period will be available on GOV.UK.

EU countries

During the transition period, there will be no changes to the terms for trading with the UK, unless the rules change for the whole of the EU. This means EU rules for customs, VAT and excise will continue to apply to the movement of goods into the UK for this limited time.

Back to top

Import tariffs into the UK

During the transition period, the UK will continue to import goods tariff-free from the EU and will continue to apply the EU's common external tariff to goods imported from a country outside the EU.

For information on tariffs and other import measures applied to a given product imported into the UK during the transition period, visit the GOV.UK Trade with the UK tool.

At the end of the transition period, the UK Government will introduce its Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff policy.

Generalised Scheme of Preferences

The UK will continue to provide trade preferences to developing countries under the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences during the transition period.

After the transition period, the UK will establish its own trade preference scheme which will be called the UK Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP). The UK's GSP will provide the same level of access as the current EU trade preference scheme.

Find out more about the UK's GSP on GOV.UK.

Back to top

Data movement

Transferring personal data

Common rules on the protection of personal data will remain in place until the end of the transition period. During the transition period, the UK will discuss long-term arrangements to permit continued personal data flows with the European Commission.

Data will be able to flow freely between the UK and the EU during the transition period.

Find guidance on personal data transfers between the UK and the EU/EEA on GOV.UK.

Personal data transfers can include:

  • customer addresses in delivery details
  • personnel files in outsourced HR, accounts and back office functions
  • transfers of customer details within a company

Back to top

Intellectual property: Trade mark and design protection

Trade marks and registered designs are intellectual property rights, with protection in the UK granted by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), or via an international registration filed under the Madrid Protocol at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

There are also unregistered design protections, which are automatic rights granted to someone once they disclose a design in the relevant sector.

During the transition period, registered EU Trade Marks, registered Community designs (RCDs), unregistered Community designs (UCDs), and protected international trade mark and design registrations designating the EU will continue to be valid in the UK.

Find out about registered design, design rights and international design and trade mark law on GOV.UK.

Back to top

Intellectual property and exhaustion of rights

During the transition period, the UK will continue to recognise the European Economic Area (EEA) regional exhaustion regime.

This means intellectual property rights are considered exhausted on IP protected goods once they have been put on the market for the first time anywhere in the EEA by or with the rights holder's permission.

This means there will be no change to the rules affecting parallel trade. Businesses that undertake this activity may continue unaffected.

Ongoing UK recognition of the EEA regional exhaustion area will ensure that parallel imports of goods, such as pharmaceuticals, can continue from the EEA.

Find out more about exhaustion of intellectual property rights on GOV.UK.

Back to top

Selling services in a regulated profession: recognition of EU, EEA and Swiss qualifications

To work in a regulated profession, you must have your qualification recognised by the relevant UK competent authority before you can practise.

There will be no change to the process for having your qualification recognised during the transition period.

If your qualification has already been recognised in the UK, that recognition will continue and you do not need to take any action.

Check the list of regulated professions and associated competent authorities in the UK on the UK National Recognition Information Centre website.

Back to top

Investing and operating in the UK

EU businesses with UK operations

The investment environment in the UK is very liberalised. EU businesses wanting to invest in the UK after the UK's departure from the EU will find the UK has very few restrictions on third country ownership and Foreign Direct Investment.

EU businesses that operate branches in the UK are already subject to the overseas companies regime.

Now that the UK has left the EU, there is no change in who can be an owner, senior manager or director of a UK company, as the UK does not place nationality restrictions on the owners or managers of UK companies.

Back to top

Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is the EU's largest programme to fund research and innovation projects.

UK researchers, universities and businesses will be able to continue participate in Horizon 2020 projects and bid for Horizon 2020 grant funding financed by the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

Organisations in the EU are encouraged to continue to collaborate with their UK partners and to bid jointly into calls for new Horizon 2020 grant funding for the lifetime of the Horizon 2020 programme.

Find out more about Horizon 2020 on the Europa website.

Back to top

Bidding on UK government contracts

During the transition period, the UK will continue to be covered by the EU's participation in the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). This means that overseas businesses based in markets covered by the GPA will still be able to bid for UK government contracts.

At the end of the transition period, the UK intends to accede to the GPA in its own right as an independent member.

Check if your business is based in a market that is covered by the GPA on the World Trade Organization website.

Back to top

Living in the UK

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their families can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. The application is free.

Visiting the UK

Current rules on travelling to the UK will continue to apply during the transition period. What you'll need to enter the UK will not change until at least 2021.

More information on visiting the UK is available on GOV.UK.

Back to top