Ellie Allen

Brexit: What Changes on January 1st 2021?

5 min read


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It has been a long road since people narrowly voted for the UK to leave the EU back in 2016, and there have been plenty of twists and turns in the saga along the way. Back then, not many people could have foreseen that politicians would still be arguing and disagreeing about the terms of a divorce deal over four years later, and yet here we are.

Since January, the UK has been in a state of transition away from the EU, but that period will come to an end at 11pm on 31 December. The big question remains as to whether there will be some kind of solid trade deal with the EU, or whether the UK will part ways and revert to generic World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules in a so-called no-deal Brexit. High-level talks are taking place to hammer out a final deal and find a solution to the two remaining areas of disagreement, namely fishing rights and the rules on state aid for national companies.

We don’t know at present whether a deal will be reached, but there are some things which are more or less likely to happen. Even if a deal is struck, the agreement is expected to be around 600 pages long and legal interpretations may take time, leading to a period of confusion. Read on to find out some of things that will change, and how they might affect you and the wider economy in the event of a deal or otherwise.


Should negotiating teams on both sides fail to reach an agreement we are likely to see a number of impacts, including:

The Pound: If there’s no deal, most currency analysts say we can expect to see Sterling devalue, although we won’t know by how much until after the event. Estimates vary between 1 and 20 percent. A weaker Pound will mean the cost of imports rise, but it will also make exports more competitive.

Northern Ireland: As the Republic of Ireland is an EU member, the EU has insisted that there should be no hard border with its UK land neighbour, Northern Ireland. The UK government has said there will be no border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and is implementing a protocol for accounting for goods travelling across the ‘soft’ border.

Food: Some 40 percent of food consumed in the UK is imported from the EU, and if there’s no deal these imports will have tariffs slapped on them, meaning price rises will end up being passed onto consumers. Some European staples, such as citrus fruit, salad crops and olive oil, could be in short supply if importers are not able to source the goods due to permit requirements and/or transit delays. A Cabinet Office analysis concluded UK food prices would rise between 3-5 percent if there was no deal.

Supply chains: Should the UK fall back on WTO rules, there could be immediate problems as haulage operators and aviators will have to apply for import permits and pay tariff costs. The fear is that there could be long lines of lorries on both sides of the Channel Tunnel, and that some time-limited goods, such as medicines, live animals and chilled food, may perish en route. The wider impact of supply chains is incalculable, with most shops and businesses operating ‘just in time’ scheduling of products and parts.

Travel and tourism: UK citizens will be regarded as ‘Third Country Nationals’ (TCNs) by the EU, meaning it’s likely a visa will be needed for both tourism and business travel. We’ll likely face additional checks at Schengen borders, and additional delays.

Holiday homes: Owners of holiday homes in EU countries will almost certainly face a limit of 90 days in the country in any six-month period unless they have been granted residency there. Campaigners say this is unfair, as EU nationals are given twice as long to stay in the UK, and they are pressing the EU to change the rules so that they can stay longer.


We don’t know exactly what form a deal would take, but we do know that some things pertinent to a no-deal scenario would remain even if there was a trade deal. The most impactful aspects of a deal would be remaining access to EU markets and lower tariffs on goods.

The Pound: If a deal is struck it is likely to be Sterling-positive, although estimates vary as to how much the Pound will appreciate.

Food: A deal would mean that no new tariffs will be levied on imports, meaning there would – in theory – be no price rises. However, the increased costs of there being more paperwork could be passed onto UK consumers, although this could be cancelled out by Sterling appreciating. The same applies to other imports from the EU.

Northern Ireland: Deal or no-deal, at 11pm on 31 December the Northern Ireland Protocol will be implemented. This means Northern Ireland agrees to follow EU rules on product standards and will charge tariffs on goods coming in from the rest of the UK, if those goods are destined for the EU. In effect, this means there will be extra paperwork and customs declarations if you want to send products to Northern Ireland, but it avoids the need for a part of the UK to effectively remain bound to the EU.

Immigration rules change: Under a new system, UK immigrants, including those from EU countries who haven’t already received a settled status, will need to score enough points to live and work here. It will be the duty of employers and landlords to check the status of foreign workers and tenants, or else face penalties.

Travel and tourism: It’s likely that no visa will be required for visits to the EU that last fewer than 90 days. The rules regarding holiday homeowners would not change, meaning there would still be a 90-day limit on staying in any one EU country in any six-month period.


As Brexit negotiations go down to the wire, we cannot know exactly what any deal will look like, or whether there will even be one. Either result is likely to mean swings in the value of the Pound, as well as a period of volatility, so if you are concerned the exchange rate could be adversely affected over the coming months there are steps you can take to minimise the impact.

In the first instance you should speak to one of our currency advisers here at Currency Solutions. They are knowledgeable about how the Forex markets work and can explain the jargon to you. More importantly, they may be able to help you secure a good exchange rate that will mitigate your risk during periods of currency market instability, such as we are likely to experience soon.

So, give us a ring today or drop a message and we’ll advise how we can help you get the best deal for you when it comes to currency transfers during these uncertain times.

Final thoughts

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