The United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU) have agreed an extension to Brexit day. Depending on what form Brexit takes, there will be a range of implications for New Zealand and New Zealanders.

The Brexit process

The United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU) have agreed an extension to Brexit day. This means that the UK will exit the EU on on 31 October 2019, unless:

  • the Withdrawal Agreement reached with the EU is approved by the UK’s House of Commons, in which case the UK will exit at that earlier point, or
  • if the UK does not hold elections to elect MEPs for the European Parliament in late May, exit will take place on 1 June.  In this ‘no deal’ scenario, there will be implications for third countries like New Zealand, or
  • the EU decides, at a summit scheduled for June, that the UK has not complied with the conditions that it set when proposing the extension. In this case, it is possible the UK  will exit the EU without a deal.  If this happens, there would likely be significant implications for third countries like New Zealand.

Read the European Council decision here (external link).

The negotiations

On 23 June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU. Following that, UK and EU negotiators worked to reach an agreement on the details of the UK’s exit from the EU and a political declaration on the framework for their future relationship. In November 2018, the UK Cabinet and EU Leaders endorsed a Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the UK and EU.

A subsequent Instrument relating to the Withdrawal Agreement and a Joint Statement supplementing the Political Declaration, were agreed between UK Prime Minister May and the President of the European Commission Juncker and approved by the European Council on 21 March 2019. These two documents were sought by Prime Minister May to gain greater political support to achieve a positive vote in the UK Parliament for the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration.  The UK has also published a unilateral statement on its interpretation of the Irish backstop if negotiations on the future trade relationship with the EU27 break down.

Download the draft agreements:

Download the UK’s unilateral statement (external link)

What does it mean for New Zealand?

New Zealand has strong relationships with the EU and UK and these will continue. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Ministers and government officials will continue to work closely with the EU and the UK to protect and enhance our relationships with both as the UK moves to exit the Union.

The UK’s departure will have a range of implications for New Zealand and New Zealanders. The nature and extent of these impacts will be determined by the terms under which the UK exits and the future relationship it establishes with the EU.

If the Withdrawal Agreement is passed through the House of Commons, there will be a transition period.  The provisional agreement reached by UK and EU negotiators includes a transition period until the end of 2020, extendable for one or two years. During the transition period, existing conditions of trade access for third countries would continue and the UK and EU would negotiate the terms of their future relationship.

Without an agreement in place (that is, a 'no-deal Brexit'), there will be no transition period.

What is the New Zealand Government doing?

The New Zealand Government is paying close attention to how Brexit unfolds, to ensure New Zealand’s interests are maintained and advanced. We are engaged at all levels, with decision-makers in the UK and the EU, particularly on trade and economic matters. Our aim is to ensure we limit disruption as much as possible to those New Zealanders affected by any Brexit outcome.

We are undertaking contingency planning for a range of scenarios, including the possibility of a no-deal. We are working to protect our current market access to both the EU and the UK, including under the WTO tariff rate quotas. We are engaging regularly with decision-makers in the UK and EU to stress the importance of arriving at an outcome that leaves us no worse off. A statement containing more detail on this is available here (external link).

Bilateral agreements

To help ensure continuity and stability in the arrangements underpinning our trade, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have signed bilateral agreements on:

  • Sanitary Measures Applicable to Trade in Live Animals and Animal Products (the Veterinary Agreement) and
  • Mutual Recognition in Relation to Conformity Assessment (the Mutual Recognition Agreement).

These agreements are intended to come into effect either as soon as the UK leaves the EU (in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit) or at the conclusion of any transition period that might be agreed between the UK and the EU. They will ensure continuation of arrangements currently in place with the UK as a result of similar agreements concluded earlier between New Zealand and the EU. A statement containing more detail on these agreements is available here (external link).

Continuity in recognition arrangements

We have also received confirmation from the UK regarding continuity in recognition arrangements currently in place for:

  • exports of New Zealand organic products;
  • conformity checks for the inspection of fresh fruit and vegetables prior to export (in New Zealand’s case, specifically apples, pears and kiwifruit); and
  • fisheries catch certification.

This will help maintain continuity in the trading conditions between New Zealand and the UK, particularly in the event of a no-deal exit.

Data Adequacy

As part of continuing preparedness for the United Kingdom (UK) leaving the European Union (EU), the relevant authorities in the United Kingdom and New Zealand have held discussions to confirm the continuation of current arrangements for data transfer, including personal information.

If the United Kingdom leaves the EU with a deal - by passing the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement - the General Data Protection Regulation will continue to directly apply in the UK until the end of 2020. This will include the applicability of the existing data adequacy decisions.

In the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal being agreed, the UK will continue to implement the requirements under the current General Data Protection Regulation (embodied in the UK Data Protection Act 2018). This will transitionally preserve the effect of the existing EU data adequacy decision in respect of New Zealand. In New Zealand’s case, entities transferring data out of New Zealand are subject to the New Zealand Privacy Act 1993, and any successor to that Act. This will continue to be the case for outward transfers and will enable ‘business as usual’ to continue in respect of data transfers from New Zealand.

Contingency Planning

As the nature and timing of the UK’s exit from the EU remains unclear, New Zealand officials continue to encourage potentially affected stakeholders to put in place contingency plans for a range of scenarios, to minimise the effects of any disruption. This includes the possibility that no deal is reached between the UK and the EU.

What does Brexit mean for business?

There will be no change to the rules covering our trade and investment, or people-to-people links with the UK and EU, while the UK remains a member of the EU. Agreement on a transition period as part of the UK’s withdrawal will limit any sudden changes.

Both the UK and EU have issued advice about how to prepare if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.

The UK Government has issued technical notes to help businesses and individuals understand the implications for them of a ‘no-deal’ scenario.  These notes are updated regularly, and cover a range of specific areas.  We encourage you to read these notes, and get in touch if you think they might have implications for you.

These cover a range of topics, including:

  • importing and exporting
  • product labelling and product safety
  • travelling between the UK and the EU
  • taxation
  • regulation of medicines and medical equipment
  • workplace rights
  • applying for EU-funded programmes
  • civil nuclear and nuclear research
  • farming
  • driving
  • state aid.

Read the UK government's guide to preparing for Brexit here (external link), and its guidelines for a no-deal Brexit here (external link).  

The EU Commission and EU Member States have published Preparedness Notices (external link) which identify the consequences of a UK withdrawal without an agreement.

New Zealand businesses may in particular want to review the guidance on importing to and exporting from the UK and the EU under a ‘no-deal’ scenario. Find helpful information here (external link).

Individuals may wish to consider how a ‘no-deal’ scenario could affect them, with regard to residency, education and employment. Businesses and individuals may want to consider seeking legal advice and/or engaging a migration agent, customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider to support in preparing for all eventualities, including a ‘no-deal’ scenario.

We will update this page as more information is received. This is not intended to be, nor should it be relied upon, as a substitute for legal or other professional advice.

If you have questions or concerns about how Brexit may impact on you, contact us on

The New Zealand Trade and Enterprise website has more information about Brexit: 

Treasury has also prepared a report on how a 'no-deal' Brexit might impact New Zealand (external link).

Brexit and customs 

Find out what Brexit means for New Zealand-UK customs on the New Zealand Customs Service website (external link)

Brexit and the primary sector

The Ministry for Primary Industries also has information specific to these sectors here (external link).

Are you a New Zealander living in the UK or travelling to the UK?

New Zealand citizens who plan to continue living in the UK after it leaves the EU can use the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website tool (external link) to seek guidance on visa status and rights to stay.  Further information can be found through the UK's Department for Exiting the European Union (external link). The UK Government has also published a range of technical notices, which provide advice on how various areas would be handled in the event of a 'no-deal' outcome.  We encourage you to read these notices (external link).

Key points about Brexit that New Zealanders travelling to or living in the UK might like to know are:

Travelling to and between the UK and the EU

Your ability to travel should not be impacted by Brexit, however it is possible that a 'no-deal' Brexit may result in longer queues at UK and EU ports of entry.  If you have concerns about upcoming travel, refer to your airline for details relating to flight information.

New Zealanders who are travelling or living overseas should always have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place. Check with your travel insurance provider to make sure that your travel insurance policy will not be affected by Brexit.  

It is possible that some arrangements for EU travel will change after Brexit.  This is particularly relevant if you are a New Zealander who lives in the UK.  Before you travel, check if there have been any changes to (for example) your right to medical care in Europe, driver licence requirements within Europe and whether your licence will be sufficient, and your mobile phone bill and roaming charges in Europe. 

Find more information:

Living and working in the UK

The UK’s exit from the EU should not affect the visa arrangements New Zealand has with the UK. The Youth Mobility Scheme visa will still be available to New Zealand citizens.

If you have specific visa enquiries, or you are concerned about an application for a visa to the UK being delayed, refer to the UK authorities (external link).

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade cannot provide definitive advice on the UK’s requirements for entry to or exit from the UK.  For this reason, we recommend that travellers consult in advance with their travel agent, airline or with the UK authorities directly.

Advice relating to the EU

For further specific advice relating to implications for issues such as travel, residency, education and employment in the EU, see the European Commission’s Preparedness Notices (external link).

More advice

What will happen to trade between NZ and the UK? What about NZ trade with the rest of the EU?

New Zealand is committed to negotiating a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) as early as possible once the UK is in a position to do so. The UK Government identified New Zealand as a priority for free trade agreement negotiations following its departure from the EU.

Read more information about future UK-New Zealand trade negotiations.

In the meantime, the same rules will apply to our trade with both the UK and the EU until the UK formally departs the EU.

These include the range of areas incorporated in the EU’s commitments under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which cover the UK.  These WTO commitments include Tariff Rate Quotas that provide access for important New Zealand exports, such as certain meat, dairy and horticultural products.

The UK and EU have initiated separate formal processes in Geneva to split the EU’s current WTO bound tariff-rate quotas post Brexit. In January 2019, the EU Parliament adopted a domestic regulation to implement these proposed reductions unilaterally should the EU choose to do so, in a ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario.  Read these proposals, together with the submissions lodged by concerned WTO Members, here (external link).

New Zealand and other quota holders have made clear that this approach would not be acceptable, as it would reduce exporters’ current access, including by removing their flexibility to respond to changes in market demand between the UK and the EU27 markets.

Read more about the government’s approach to tariff-rate quotas here (external link)

What will happen to our broader relationship with the UK?

The UK will remain a close, fundamental partner for New Zealand.

On issues such as defence, security and immigration the bilateral relationship between New Zealand and the UK is not, for the most part, linked in any way to the UK’s EU membership. They are either bilaterally managed, or are governed by arrangements separate from the EU.

The Government is keeping a close eye on agreements or arrangements that provide a framework for the UK-NZ relationship and will seek to protect and promote these if it seems likely they will be affected by the UK’s exit from the EU.

What will happen to the EU-NZ free trade agreement?

Negotiations towards an EU-NZ free trade agreement will continue without the UK after it leaves the EU. We launched these negotiations in June 2018 and negotiators met for a third round in February in Brussels.

Read more about EU-NZ free trade agreement negotiations here.

Related links

New Zealand industry views on Brexit
NZTE - Preparing your business for Brexit  (external link)
NZ Customs - Preparing for Brexit  (external link)
UK Government - EU Exit (external link)