The UK has strong partnerships with virtually every country around the world and aims to strengthen them as we leave the European Union.
During the UK’s membership of the EU, important aspects of these relationships have been governed through EU arrangements: through formal and informal co-operation and collaboration; dialogues; memoranda of understanding; regulatory arrangements; and in some cases through international agreements or treaties.
The Government have been committed to preserving the relationships governed by these agreements and arrangements. Accordingly, article 129 of the withdrawal agreement specifies that, for the duration of the transition period, the UK will remain bound by the obligations under existing EU-third country international agreements. In addition, the asterisk to article 129(1) provides for the EU to issue a notification to its treaty partners stating that the UK is to be treated as an EU member state for the purposes of those agreements.
Following signature of the withdrawal agreement on 24 January, the EU has now issued the notification described above to its treaty partners, as well as to the depositaries of multilateral agreements to which it is a party.
This notification provides an important platform for continuity. Some EU treaty partners may choose to respond publicly to the EU’s notification, but this is not a precondition for continuity provided a treaty partner intends the UK to be covered and continues to act accordingly.
If businesses or other stakeholders find that these arrangements, for whatever reason, are not being implemented smoothly, they should make their concerns known to the relevant UK authorities.
As of 1 February, the UK will also become bound by any obligations stemming from EU international agreements which are concluded or provisionally applied during the transition period. The Government expect that the arrangements above will also apply to such agreements.
To prepare for the end of the transition period, the Government will continue to work to transition those international agreements which are relevant and necessary, where there is mutual interest to do so. In some cases, this will be through a formal successor treaty between the UK and a third country or group of countries. In other cases, this will be through another type of arrangement, for example a memorandum of understanding.
I will be depositing a copy of the EU’s notification (in the form of a note verbale and covering letter) in the Libraries of both Houses.