The United Kingdom (U.K.) voted to leave the European Union (EU) in 2016, and officially left on 1 February 2020 after both sides concluded a Withdrawal Agreement which facilitated an orderly departure. This Agreement includes chapters on Citizens' Rights, the Financial Settlement, other separation issues, and the Protocol on Northern Ireland.

The Agreement also provided for a transitional period which gave national administrations, businesses, and citizens time to prepare for the changes expected from 1 January 2021. During this 11-month period, although the U.K. had formally left the Union, it was still bound by EU rules. This transitional period was also an opportunity for both parties to engage in negotiations on the terms that would regulate their future relationship. In this respect, a deal on a future partnership was agreed on 24 December 2020, whereby the European Commission and the United Kingdom agreed in principle on the:

  • Trade and Cooperation Agreement;
  • Agreement concerning security procedures for exchanging and protecting classified information; and
  • Agreement for cooperation on the safe and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed the EU-U.K. Trade and Cooperation agreement on Wednesday, 30 December 2020. The U.K. Parliament formally ratified the agreement earlier on the same day.

Given that negotiations could only be finalized at a very late stage before the expiry of the transition period, the Council decided  to allow for the provisional application of the Agreement as from 1 January 2021. This does not jeopardize the right of democratic scrutiny -  in accordance with the Treaties - of the European Parliament and national parliaments. The scrutiny process must be finalized by 28 February 2021.

The EU-U.K. Trade and Cooperation Agreement sets out preferential arrangements in areas such as trade in goods and in services, digital trade, intellectual property, public procurement, aviation, and road transport, energy, fisheries, social security coordination, law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, thematic cooperation, and participation in Union programmes. It is underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field and respect for fundamental rights. While it will by no means match the level of economic integration that existed while the U.K. was an EU Member State, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement goes beyond traditional free-trade agreements and provides a solid basis for preserving the longstanding friendship and cooperation between the two sides.

These are the main points of the agreement:

  • It provides for zero tariffs and zero quotas on all goods that comply with the appropriate rules of origin.
  • Both parties have committed to ensuring a robust level playing field by maintaining high levels of protection in areas such as environmental protection, the fight against climate change and carbon pricing, social and labour rights, tax transparency and State aid, with effective domestic enforcement, a binding dispute settlement mechanism, and the possibility for both parties to take remedial measures.
  • The EU and the U.K. agreed on a new framework for the joint management of fish stocks in EU and U.K. waters. The U.K. will be able to further develop British fishing activities, while the activities and livelihoods of European fishing communities will be safeguarded, and natural resources preserved.
  • On transport, the agreement provides for continued and sustainable air, road, rail, and maritime connectivity, though market access falls below what the Single Market offers. It includes provisions to ensure that competition between EU and U.K. operators takes place on a level playing field, so that passenger rights, workers' rights, and transport safety are not undermined.
  • On energy, the agreement provides a new model for trading and interconnectivity, with guarantees for open and fair competition, including on safety standards for offshore, and the production of renewable energy.
  • On social security coordination, the agreement aims at ensuring a number of rights of EU citizens and U.K. nationals. This concerns EU citizens working in, travelling, or moving to the U.K. and to U.K. nationals working in, travelling, or moving to the EU after 1 January 2021.
  • Finally, the agreement enables the U.K.'s continued participation in a number of flagship EU programmes for the period 2021-2027 (subject to a financial contribution by the U.K. to the EU budget), such as Horizon Europe.

Foreign policy, external security, and defence cooperation are not covered by the Agreement as the U.K. was reluctant to negotiate on this matter. As of 1 January 2021, there will therefore be no framework in place between the U.K. and the EU to develop and coordinate joint responses to foreign policy challenges, for instance the imposition of sanctions on third country nationals or economies.

In addition, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement does not cover any decisions relating to equivalences for financial services, the adequacy of the U.K. data protection regime, or the assessment of the U.K.'s sanitary and phytosanitary regime for the purpose of listing it as a third country allowed to export food products to the EU.

The Nuclear Cooperation agreement provides for wide-ranging cooperation on safe and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, underpinned by commitments by both Euratom and the U.K. to comply with international non-proliferation obligations and uphold a high level of nuclear safety standards.

The agreement on Security of Information will allow the EU and the U.K. to exchange classified information, applying strong guarantees as to the handling and protection of the exchanged information.


While the Maltese Government welcomes these agreements, and looks forward to their full implementation, it also acknowledges that this in no way means that the status quo is being maintained. There are several changes which were inevitable, given that the U.K. no longer forms part of the EU -and by extension, its Single Market and Customs Union. The effects of this separation are being felt in virtually every sector.

Government remains grateful for the ongoing engagement with stakeholders and constituted bodies, and will continue to work closely with its partners in addressing shared objectives, to ensure that all the necessary assistance is given to businesses and citizens to mitigate the impact and adapt to evolving circumstances.

Further to the new agreements, it is also worth noting that the Withdrawal Agreement still applies. In particular, this Agreement contains a number of important provisions that safeguard the rights of citizens that fall within its scope. In this respect, it is of utmost importance that citizens who were already living in one another's country, take all the necessary measures in order to safeguard their rights by the end of the transition period.​



Brexit Helpline: 153

Email: [email protected]

Social Media Account: Brexit – Be Prepared​


Useful Links: 


Government Readiness Action Plan:

European Commission Website: The EU-U.K. Trade and Cooperation Agreement

Sectoral Stakeholder notices:



EU-U.K. Withdrawal Agreement:

EU-U.K. Trade and Cooperation Agreement:

Link for the EU-U.K. Security of Information Agreement:

Link for the EU-U.K. Agreement for cooperation on the safe and peaceful uses of nuclear energy:​


Maltese citizens in the U.K.:

For more information on EU citizens' rights:  

To apply for the EU Settlement Scheme:       

Information for business owners in the U.K.:

Information on U.K. Immigration System


U.K. Citizens in Malta:       


Customs Department:​-mean-for-my-business-​​-by-the-customs-department


Malta Financial Services Authority:​