Government publishes guidance on International Agreements with third countries during the transition period

The document details provisions for the continuity of international agreements during the transition period now that the UK has left the EU.

The document explains that the UK’s relationships with third countries across the world are governed in a number of ways: through formal and informal cooperation and collaboration; dialogues; memoranda of understanding; regulatory arrangements; and in some cases through international agreements or treaties. The Government says that it is committed to preserving the relationships governed by these arrangements and agreements.

The guidance explains that during the transition period the UK and the EU have agreed that the UK will be treated as a Member State for the purposes of EU international agreements with third countries (including free trade agreements) and therefore will be covered by these agreements during this period. The EU is in the process of notifying third countries of this position. Some third countries may choose to respond publicly to the EU’s notification, but this is not a precondition for continuity provided a third country intends the UK to be covered and continues to act accordingly. During the transition period, the UK will also be able to negotiate, sign and ratify new international agreements in areas of EU competence that come into force or apply after the period ends.

During the transition period, the UK will also be bound by the obligations arising from EU international agreements that are concluded or provisionally applied during the period. The Government says that it will engage with relevant third countries to confirm its expectation that the UK will also be able to access the rights contained in these agreements during the transition period.

The guidance states that to prepare for the end of the transition period, the Government has been undertaking “a significant programme of work” with third countries to transition those international agreements that are relevant, necessary, and where there is mutual interest to do so. This is to ensure that there are arrangements in place to replicate the effects of the current agreements following the transition period.

The document explains that in some cases this transition will be through a formal “successor” treaty between the UK and a third country or group of countries. In other cases, it will be through another type of arrangement, for example a memorandum of understanding. There are other areas where no formal agreement is required, but where the UK will be able to cooperate with international partners in the same way as present. To read the guidance on the Government’s website, click here.