Find out what the Government is doing ahead of Brexit and what the United Kingdom leaving the European Union means for New Zealand.

The Brexit process

The United Kingdom (UK), under its new Government, is on track to leave the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020. Once this occurs the UK will enter a transition period until 31 December 2020. During this time, the UK will negotiate its future terms of trade and its political/security relationship with the EU. Should the UK and EU not reach agreement, and an extension of the transition period is not agreed, a "no deal" Brexit is still theoretically possible on 1 January 2021.

If you have questions or concerns about how Brexit may impact your business, contact us on 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 was agreed.

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker announced agreement on a revised Brexit deal on Thursday 17 October 2019. The UK-EU Withdrawal 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 revised Brexit deal requires approval from the UK and European Parliaments. If approved, the UK and EU would enter a transition period until at least 31 December 2020. During this transition period, the UK would remain in the EU single market and the current UK-EU trading arrangements continue subject to EU rules and regulations. The transition period could be extended for one or two years if the EU and UK agree.

A no-deal Brexit could still arise on 1 January 2021 if the implementation period lapses without an extension or a future trade and security/political agreement in place.

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.

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 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)
  • Customs Agreement for Mutual Assistance on Administrative Matters

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 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.

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 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

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.