At 11.00pm on Friday 31 January 2020, the UK formally left the EU, immediately entering an 11-month transition period under a withdrawal agreement designed to smooth the path of Brexit. The agreement provides for EU rules to continue to apply for the UK.

We look at what businesses need to know as we reach this historic moment:

Employment law

Freedom of movement will continue to apply for people during the transition period, so EU nationals wishing to live and work in the UK can do so as they currently do, as can UK nationals wishing to live and work in the EU.

At the end of the transition period (31 December 2020), freedom of movement is to end and EU citizens will no longer have an automatic right to live and work in the UK. Before then, EU citizens currently living in the UK need to apply for ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’ status, under the EU Settlement Scheme. The EU Settlement Scheme relates to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK. Irish Citizens or those with indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK do not need to apply under the scheme. The deadline for applying is 30 June 2021.

Further details of the impact of Brexit on employment law is available here.


UK nationals living in the EU will continue to receive their state pension, along with any annual increase. For businesses, there will probably a greater impact for those which form part of multinational groups with EU parent or subsidiary companies as there may be cross-border considerations.

HM Revenue & Customs recently confirmed that tax advantages for UK enterprise management incentive share options under EU state aid rules will continue until the end of the transition period.

Family law

It could be said that, in family law matters, we have all become a little complacent when it comes to considering whether or not European regulations apply to the EU country with which we are dealing. We have become dependent upon international rules (Brussels II) when it comes to jurisdiction for family law matters but that will change with Brexit.

It is therefore more important than ever that we build and maintain international networks, as the ability to quickly find out the differences in jurisdiction and the best forum for clients will be of great benefit. It is likely that we will see an increase in the use of pre- and post-nuptial agreements in international relationships in order to try and regulate the parties’ preferred jurisdiction.

Data protection

The Data Protection Act 2018 is the UK’s implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into force in May 2018, placing new obligations on businesses in relation to dealing with personal data. These rules will continue to apply post-Brexit, so businesses should continue to ensure compliance with data protection law as they currently do.


During the transition period, the trade of goods and services between the UK and EU will continue without any extra charges or checks. Over the next 11 months, the UK Government and the EU are negotiating a UK-EU free trade deal, but businesses will need to prepare for the outcome of these negotiations including possible tariffs or barriers to trade, before the transition period ends on 31 December 2020.

We will continue to update our clients on the implications of Brexit throughout 2020. If you have any questions about how Brexit may impact your business, please get in touch with your usual MacRoberts contact or a member of our specialist team.