Find out what the United Kingdom leaving the European Union means for New Zealand.

The Brexit process

The United Kingdom (UK) left the European Union (EU) at 11pm / 12am, midnight (Brussels time) on Friday 31 January (UK time). The UK is no longer a Member State of the EU.  There are now 27 EU Member States.

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 European Union.

If you have questions or concerns about how Brexit; and the future relationship between the UK and EU may impact your business, contact us on exports@mfat.net or for urgent export-related enquiries, call 0800 824 605.

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, a Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the UK and EU were agreed.

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and then-President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker announced agreement on a revised Brexit deal on Thursday 17 October 2019. The UK-EU Withdrawal (external link) Agreement (external link) has been unanimously endorsed by the 27 European Council members. The Council also approved the Political Declaration (external link)on the future EU-UK relationship.  

The Withdrawal Agreement has now been ratified by both the UK and European Parliaments. On 1 February 2020, the UK and EU will enter an implementation period until 31 December 2020. During this implementation period, the UK will remain in the EU single market and the current UK-EU trading arrangements continue subject to EU rules and regulations. The implementation period could be extended for one or two years if the EU and UK agree.

The rules that govern the UK-EU relationship - including trade - from 1 January 2021 (or later if the implementation period is extended) will be determined by what agreement is reached by the UK and EU during the implementation period. 

Download the agreements

Download the UK’s unilateral statement (external link)

What does it mean for New Zealand?

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

New Zealand will look to build on its relationship with the UK, as well as recommitting to New Zealand’s important relationship with the EU, following the UK’s exit from the EU.

The UK has now entered an ‘implementation period’ until 31 December 2020 with the EU.   During the implementation period the status quo UK-EU relationship will continue.  The objective of the implementation period is to allow the UK and EU time to negotiate the terms of their future trade, political and security relationship.  The UK government has provided guidance for businesses and individuals on changes beyond the transition period here (external link).

During the implementation period, existing conditions of trade access for third countries will continue and the UK and EU will negotiate the terms of their future relationship.

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.

What will happen to our broader relationship with the UK?

The UK will remain a close, fundamentally important 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 their effectiveness diminishes as arrangements between the UK and the EU evolve.

What is the New Zealand Government doing?

The New Zealand Government has been paying close attention to how Brexit unfolds, to ensure New Zealand’s interests are maintained and advanced. We have 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.

This includes 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).

We’re 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 has also identified New Zealand as a priority for free trade agreement negotiations following its departure from the EU.

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)
  • Customs Agreement for Mutual      Assistance on Administrative Matters

These agreements are intended to come into effect at the conclusion of any implementation period that might be agreed between the UK and the EU. They will ensure continuation of arrangements New Zealand currently has 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 the Veterinary Agreement and Mutual Recognition Agreement 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)
  • fisheries catch certification.

Data Adequacy

The EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement has now been passed by both the UK and EU parliaments and the UK is set to exit the EU and enter a transition period, from 1 February 2020.

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, current EU laws and regulations in this area will continue to be applicable in the UK during the transition period. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation will therefore continue to apply in the UK until the end of 2020, including existing EU data adequacy decisions.

In the event of the UK leaving the EU on 1 January 2021 without trade and political agreements 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

The UK and EU are seeking to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that would provide for preferential trading arrangements between the UK and EU from 1 January 2021, given the UK will no longer be a member of the EU Customs Union and Single Market.  In the absence of a concluded FTA, the UK and EU would trade on non-preferential terms established by World Trade Organisation rules.  In either event - an agreed FTA or not - the rules that govern UK-EU trade will change at the conclusion of the implementation period.

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 trade and political agreements are not reached between the UK and the EU by the end of 2020.