Working to make government more effective


Brexit deal: Political Declaration on future UK-EU relationship

The UK and EU have agreed a revised Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship.


The UK and EU have agreed a revised Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom. It sits alongside the revised text of the Withdrawal Agreement, agreed at a European Council summit on 17 October 2019.

This declaration is not legally binding but will set the direction of the future relationship negotiations, which are expected to begin once the UK has formally left the EU.

The table below summarises what it says, what the text means, and what has changed since the original Political Declaration from November 2018 agreed between the EU and Theresa May’s government.

Economic partnership | Security partnership | Cross-cutting 


Economic partnership


What does it say?

What does it mean?

What has changed from Theresa May's deal?


Commitment to an "ambitious" trading relationship "on the basis of a free trade agreement", with mention of deep regulatory and customs co-operation and a level playing field for fair competition.

Commits to "ambitious customs arrangements", but also mentions using technology, customs facilitations and co-operation on VAT to remove friction and combat illegal activity.

Confirms both sides will be separate markets and different entities for animal and plant health. The two sides will seek to improve administrative processes around regulatory checks and controls, and explore the possibility of UK co-operation with EU agencies – such as in medicines, chemicals and aviation.

Implies that trade between the UK and EU will not be frictionless, but the extent of checks will depend on the extent of divergence by the UK. The customs arrangements proposed by the government are intended to minimise friction.

Wants to explore options for UK–EU cooperation – for example, with EU agencies – to further reduce regulatory barriers.

Trading relationship on goods envisaged to be "ambitious", rather than "as close as possible". Now stresses that this would be "on the basis of a free trade agreement".

No mention of the "single customs territory" provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement.

No discussion of UK aligning with EU rules in relevant areas.

New emphasis on co-operation around VAT matters.

Suggests a looser trading relationship, with greater scope for divergence (see also, ‘Level playing field').


Liberalisation “well beyond WTO” builds on recent EU free trade agreements.

Market access and national treatment under host state rules. Aims to allow "temporary entry" for people on business.

Voluntary regulatory cooperation and “good regulatory practices”, with “appropriate arrangements” for mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

Individual services chapters to be negotiated but commits to preserving regulatory autonomy for both parties.

Nothing has changed.

Financial services

Based on equivalence decisions.

Hope to get decisions in place by the end of June 2020.

Normal third country treatment.

Doesn’t close the possibility of further enhancement but it doesn’t offer it either.

Nothing has changed.


Facilitation of cross border ecommerce and data flows.

Both sides to share information and best practice regarding regulating new technologies. 

Allows trade in digital services and other services dependent on data flows to continue, without the UK joining the Digital Single Market.

Nothing has changed


UK to be an independent coastal state.

New fisheries agreement on access and quota shares.

Aim to ratify new fisheries agreement by 1 July 2020 so that it can be used to determine fishing opportunities for the first year after transition.

UK leaves the Common Fisheries Policy.


Nothing has changed


Comprehensive air transport agreement.

“Comparable market access” for road transport operators.

Bilateral arrangements for cross-border rail services.

Connectivity in the maritime transport sector to be based on international law.

Transport services to be largely covered in separate agreements.

Nothing has changed


Technical cooperation between electricity and gas networks operators and organisations.

Wide-ranging Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).

Co-operation on carbon pricing by linking a UK national greenhouse gas emissions trading system with the EU Emissions Trading System.

Basis for talks on cooperation.

Includes prospect for technical cooperation on energy and gas infrastructure through new framework.

Agreement to co-operate with Euratom as a third country to be negotiated.

Also includes prospect for co-operation on carbon pricing by linking the future UK system to the EU one.

Nothing has changed

Intellectual property

Both sides to ensure protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, going beyond the World Trade Organization (WTO) standards and World Intellectual Property Organisation conventions.

Protections for geographical indications to be negotiated.

Intellectual property rights chapter to be negotiated – prospect to maintain current high levels of protection of certain rights under copyright law, and artists resale rights. 

Specifies arrangements to protect geographical indications (such as feta cheese and Champagne) will need to be negotiated

Nothing has changed.
Public procurement

The UK and EU want to go beyond what they are obliged to do under the WTO Government Procurement Agreement.

The UK and EU should commit to procurement standards and make remedies before judicial authorities available.
This is an opening position for future negotiations, without a specific aim besides going beyond commitments their WTO commitments (which the UK is currently negotiating). Nothing has changed.

End of freedom of movement, but both sides will "aim to provide" visa-free travel.

UK not able to discriminate between member states.

Arrangements on temporary entry for business.

Specific schemes covering research, study, training and youth exchanges, as well as social security coordination to be negotiated.

Standard provisions for services. Visa-free travel for short-term visits to be agreed.

The EU will be looking for the UK to offer the same mobility provisions to all EU countries.

This would be similar to the arrangements between UK and Australia.
Nothing has changed.
Level playing field

Both parties will uphold standards applicable at the end of the transition period in the areas of state aid, competition, social and environmental standards, climate change and tax.

Appropriate mechanisms to ensure effective domestic implementation, enforcement and dispute settlement, reflecting "relevant Union and international standards" and including "a robust and comprehensive framework for competition and state aid control".

UK is committing to level playing field provisions in accordance with standards in place at the end of the transition period.

No longer any commitment to build on the level playing field arrangements provided for in the Northern Ireland protocol; instead both parties commit to upholding existing standards at the end of the transition period. Rather than the “dynamic alignment” suggested previously, the government looks to be closer to agreeing “non-regression”.

Greater emphasis on international principles and rules, including explicit mention of the Paris Climate Accord.



Security partnership


What does it say?

What does it mean?

What has changed from Theresa May's deal?

Law enforcement and judicial co-operation

Current proposals are based on the UK’s commitment to the role of the European Court of Justice in interpreting EU law as well as the European Convention on Human Rights and data protection.

Reciprocal exchanges of passenger data, DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data under Prüm.

Exchange of information on wanted or missing persons and of criminal records, approximating EU mechanisms.

UK cooperation in Europol and Eurojust.

Swift and effective extradition arrangements.

Arrangements for practical cooperation, like Joint Investigation Teams, approximating EU mechanisms.

Cooperation on tackling money laundering and terrorist financing.

No access to tools that are restricted to EU member states and Schengen countries, e.g. European Arrest Warrant , Schengen Information System  and European Criminal Record Information System. The one exception is Prüm – no other non-Schengen country is part of this.

Alternative arrangements to be developed.

Access to PNR data going beyond previous third country agreements.

Terms of co-operation through EU agencies; Joint Investigation Teams still be confirmed.

Nothing has changed.

Foreign policy, security and defence

Structured consultation and regular thematic dialogues – particularly on sanctions, with possibility of coordination.

Diplomatic cooperation in third countries and international organisations

Cooperation on external action and some Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions, which respects the decision-making autonomy of both parties.

Possibility of collaboration on relevant European Defence Agency programmes, and some European Defence Fund  and Permanent Structured Cooperation projects.

Exchange intelligence, especially on counter-terrorism, hybrid threats and cyber-threats.

"Appropriate arrangements" on space co-operation.

Will establish a dialogue on development.

UK stays closely involved, going beyond third country precedents in places.

Continues to participate in EU operations on a case-by-case basis.

EU-UK dialogue continues across issues.

UK industry to collaborate with EU partners in capability development where appropriate.

Greater emphasis on the need to respect the autonomy of the decision-making structures of both parties.

Other security co-operation

Close cooperation on cyber security,

Civil protection in disaster and health security, illegal immigration and counter-terrorism. 

UK and EU will continue to work together on security issues in Europe, third countries, and sharing information and best practice.

Nothing has changed.

Classified and sensitive non-classified information

Security of Information Agreement to be negotiated on the handling and protection of classified and sensitive non-classified information.

Supports timely exchange of intelligence underpinning other elements of security partnership.

Nothing has changed.



Cross-cutting issues


What does it say?

What does it mean?

What has changed from Theresa May's deal?

Institutional structure

“Overarching institutional framework” which could take the form of an association agreement. There is scope for more specific institutional arrangements covering individual areas.

There should include a possibility to review the relationship.

Suggests a model for the framework, drawing on the Ukraine-style approach.

Makes clear the relationship can evolve.

Nothing has changed.


Anticipates dialogue at the "appropriate levels" to set direction and discuss opportunities for co-operation.

"Appropriate arrangements for dispute settlement and enforcement", including through the Joint Committee, an independent arbitration panel, and a "flexible mediation mechanism". Conditions for "temporary remedies in the case of non-compliance" to be agreed.

Supports a relationship between the European Parliament and UK Parliament.

Implies that both parties will continue some level of cooperation, but how that cooperation will work in practice is left unclear.

The framework for dispute settlements has not clearly been laid out – this may mean that a more discretionary process will be used.

Arrangements no longer based on those set out in the Withdrawal Agreement.

Less of an emphasis on working closely together, with no explicit reference to summits at ministerial and technical levels.

Explicitly states that the ECJ should have no role over disputes not relating to interpretation of Union law.

Emphasises flexible problem solving, no longer a rigid structure.

Core values and rights

UK to continue to respect European Convention on Human Rights as part of wider ongoing commitment on both sides to human rights, democratic principles, and rule of law.

The UK will remain bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, but not the more wide-ranging Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR).

Nothing has changed.

Data protection

Commission will start data adequacy assessment for UK as soon as possible after withdrawal, with a view to concluding before end of transition.

Arrangements to be made for ‘appropriate’ cooperation between data protection regulators.

The EU is not willing to negotiate an agreement offering anything beyond a standard ‘adequacy’ agreement. The intention to ensure a decision is reached before end of transition to avoid disruption is positive.

Detail of regulatory cooperation still to be agreed.

Nothing has changed.

Participation in EU programmes

General principles, terms and conditions for UK participation in EU programmes to be agreed.

Will ‘explore’ UK participation in European Research Infrastructure Consortiums (ERICs).

Funding proportions for a future PEACE PLUS programme in NI to be maintained.

EU open to UK participation in programmes under certain conditions – including financial contributions


Nothing has changed.

Global cooperation

Continued cooperation in international forums (like the G7 and G20).

Specific commitments to international agreements especially on climate.

Early indication of areas where EU and UK may want to make common cause in international forums.

Nothing has changed.


Should engage in dialogue in areas of shared interest.

Notes UK desire for future relationship with the European Investment Bank.

Does not confirm that options for future relationship with European Investment Bank will be explored – just notes that UK wants to explore them.

Nothing has changed.

Forward process

Formal negotiations to start as soon after UK has left as possible, making best endeavours to conclude by December 2020.

Both Parties will start preparatory work which will include drawing up a full schedule identifying the most challenging areas,   and taking into account relevant internal processes.

The parties will convene in June 2020 to take stock of progress.

Where possible, the European Commission will consider applying relevant aspects of the future relationship before the end of the transition period ‘on a provisional basis’.

Both parties agree the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement must be protected.

The two sides hope to agree the detail of a legally binding future relationship by the end of 2020.

There will be agreement of a negotiating schedule and summit to review progress in June 2020.

Preparatory work no longer expected to take place ‘before withdrawal’, given short timeframe. Reference the desire to conclude negotiations by December 2020 and therefore only refer to a single summit rather than the “every six months” in the previous agreement.

Intention to draw up a ‘full’ rather than ‘proposed’ schedule for the future negotiations, ‘expeditiously’, and taking into account both parties internal processes.

Willingness on the part of the European Commission to consider applying aspects of the future relationship before the end of the transition period.



Related content