The Brexit transition period ends on December 31st, 2020 with many aspects of the UK’s relationship with the EU changing for good.

There are new rules for businesses and citizens from 1 January 2021.- but what exactly is changing?


Travel is set to change and from January trips to EU countries. As well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein will need a significant amount of planning. 

In order to travel, you will need to have 6 months left on your passport to travel to Schengen countries. The European Health Insurance Card will no longer be valid and you will need to check with your vet before taking animals abroad. The pet passport will no longer be valid and when travelling free roaming will no longer apply. You will need at least 6 months left on your passport to cover driving abroad and travel insurance. Business travellers, who are likely to travel often may need to obtain a visa. 

Border queue 

At Border control, those with UK passports will need to stand at a different queue - using a separate line from EU passports. From 2022, UK nationals must pay for an electronic authorisation to travel to the Schengen area - similar to the ESTA system in the US. 

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Duty-free will continue and shoppers will be able to take advantage of airport purchases. The amount of tobacco and alcohol brought back will increase, however, tax-free sales on certain items such as electronics and clothes will end on January 1. 

Free movement

One of the major changes will be around free movement around countries in the Schengen agreement and movement in the UK. January 1st will see a new points-based system come into place in the UK for foreign citizens wanting to come into the country. For those hoping to move to Europe, there may be the need to register or apply for residency. Those living in Ireland will be largely unaffected, but those considering a move have been urged to check the rules. Those living in the EU already have certain protections under the Withdrawal Agreement. 

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Trade remains a much-discussed issue in the post-Brexit talks, however, it will change significantly following January 1st. Importers and exporters will be required to make customs declarations as if they were dealing with countries elsewhere in the world. Some products will require special licenses. This uncertainty remains in Northern Ireland with much of the trade to be ironed out. If no trade deal is reached, the UK will trade with the EU under World Trade Organisation rules - which would see taxes involved in goods entering the country. 

What issues remain?

  • Fisheries - The EU wants to continue to maximise access to UK waters for its fishing fleets after December 31.
  • Business level playing field - The so-called “level playing field” rules are intended to ensure businesses on one side do not gain an unfair advantage over those on the other side.
  • Governance - The two sides are still at odds over the mechanisms for enforcing any agreement and resolving disputes. The UK side has been adamant that the UK is an independent sovereign state and cannot accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.