The British Government has explained in a White Paper how its relationship with the EU27 should be from 2021.

AD – 07/2018

On 12 July 2018, the UK Government published its thoughts on the future relationship with the EU27 in the form of a White Paper. The negotiations in Brussels, conducted by Michel Barnier on behalf of the EU, have so far suffered from the fact that nobody knows ‘what the British really want’; this is no longer the case. The White Paper does not address ‘divorce costs’ or the transitional period from 30 March to 31 December 2020, but rather looks at the period from 1 January 2021.  

The full version of the White Paper is only available in English. Summarised versions are available in various languages, including German. Selected passages from the full version are reproduced in the following. The corresponding references are indicated in brackets at the end of each of the UK’s wishes (page/paragraph number). Where there are multiple references relating to the same wish, only one reference is usually listed.  

According to the White Paper, the UK’s wishes are as follows: 

Jurisdiction of CJEU ends

The CJEU will no longer have jurisdiction over the United Kingdom (see Foreword and Conclusion). The White Paper also makes reference to this in certain relevant topics, such as Paragraph 33 on Page 91. The following text omits this reference in order to avoid repetition.  

Trilateral free trade zones for goods

There will be a free trade zone for goods – not services – with the EU, which would see the UK continuing to apply the EU’s free trade agreements (FTAs) to third countries (16/14). The UK has the full right to add its own FTAs with countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the US (47/158). Overlaps of the free trade zones result in basically boundless ‘trilateral’ trade (19/23c). 


The British Parliament, as a sovereign entity, has at all times the full right not to enact individual provisions of the rulebook for Great Britain (91/31). There is a progressive mechanism for dispute resolution (88/19; 93/41 and 42); the responsible body for a final ruling has not been set, but it may be the WTO (93/43). 

Customs arrangement for goods

There will be a customs arrangement with the EU for goods, which would continue to apply the same custom regulations currently applied by the EU to third countries (19/22). Goods that the UK imports from third countries will be divided into those that are destined for the EU27 and those that are destined for the UK domestic market (17/16). 


Import and export tariffs will not apply to the UK or the EU27 as part of the customs arrangement (19/23). For goods imported into the United Kingdom from third countries which are destined for the EU, the United Kingdom will carry out full customs clearance, including any customs duties, on behalf of the EU27 (16/15). 


For goods imported by the United Kingdom from third countries destined for domestic use, the customs duties payable shall be charged in accordance with its own FTAs (18/19). They therefore contain provisions independent of the EU27, such as import tariffs (48/161); these could therefore balance one another out or be eliminated altogether. 

The practical effects of this can be illustrated with an example: intermediate goods that the UK imports via its own FTA, for example from India without import duty, are used in the UK to manufacture vehicles which are initially intended for the domestic market. Later, the vehicles can be sold duty-free in the EU27. However, duties are charged on these same intermediate goods that car manufactures in the EU27 directly import because the EU27 has no FTA with India. This would provide a significant financial advantage to vehicle production in the UK unless an EU27 import duty was retrospectively imposed on the Indian intermediate goods. The White Paper proposes a mechanism for these or similar cases (17/17).  

Medical products, medical devices, chemical substances

Medicinal products, medical devices and chemical substances are referred to as complex goods for which a higher level of regulatory control or integration will be used in free trade with the EU27 (20/28 and 21/29). The UK will continue to cooperate in this area through relevant agencies such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the REACH chemicals registry (21/30, 22/30c and 92/36). 


The degree of cooperation will vary from situation to situation (92/37). 

Collaboration on research

Cooperation on research will be continued as far as possible (76/20). This will be ensured through the UK participating in agencies, networks, programmes and projects (78/28 and 29). The White Paper specifically mentions the European Reference Network for rare diseases (78/30a).  

Movement of people

Immigration will become the sole responsibility of the UK Government and Parliament (32/73). The free movement of EU citizens and, where applicable, third-country nationals, in particular the free movement of workers, guaranteed by the EU will end (32/76). The UK will continue to attract immigrants from the European Union and elsewhere if they are hardworking (32/75). An immigration system will be designed, details of which will be published soon (32/74). 


In keeping with the depth of the relationship between the UK and the EU27, the United Kingdom will make a sovereign decision on the extent to which mobility is granted to people, building on existing WTO GATS rules (33/first paragraph). 

Coordination of social security

The White Paper does not contain a dedicated section to the coordination of social security; it is only briefly mentioned in a few sentences under ‘Framework for mobility’. The UK will make a sovereign decision on which individual areas should be included in the coordination of social security (34/88). All arrangements will be made according to the principle of reciprocity, so that UK nationals who reside in the EU27 will have the same rights as EU citizens residing in the UK (34/89). 


The principle of reciprocity ensures that UK citizens living in the EU27 continue to receive their pension entitlements and have access to healthcare (33/76e). The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can still be used when people need to be treated while on holiday (34/84). 

Professional qualifications

One of the prerequisites for worker mobility is the mutual recognition of professional qualifications. This is particularly important for healthcare professionals, especially those working in both Ireland and Northern Ireland (27/54). A new system will be set up for this (25/49b). The White Paper proposes that EU Regulations on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications be transposed into the content of the FTA and thus result in the broadening of FTAs that fall behind EU regulations (27/55).