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What is happening in the relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom after the Comprehensive Trade and Cooperation Agreement has entered into force?

On 24 December 2020, the European Commission, as the EU’s chief negotiator, and the United Kingdom reached agreement on:

  • a Comprehensive Trade and Cooperation Agreement;
  • an Agreement concerning Security Procedures for Exchanging and Protecting Classified Information; and
  • an Agreement on Cooperation on the Safe and Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.

The Comprehensive Trade and Cooperation Agreement is of key importance for the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport. It includes, among other things, the rules governing the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom in air, road and maritime transport.
This Agreement entered into force definitively on 1 May 2021. It has been applied on a provisional basis since 1 January 2021.

For general information on the Agreements between the EU and the United Kingdom, please follow the link to the website of the Federal Foreign Office.

Readiness – preparations for the end of the transition period

The European Commission and the Member States had already made comprehensive preparations for the time after the end of the transition period by the end of 2020. These concern the comprehensive, inevitable changes that have definitely resulted – irrespective of whether agreement is reached on the new agreements between the EU and the United Kingdom – because the United Kingdom has left the EU’s Single Market and the Customs Union (aka readiness measures).

Detailed information from the European Commission on the end of the transition period with overviews of all policy areas, including transport, can be found here.
Detailed questions and answers on the changes in the transport sector that result from the end of transition period can be found here.

Air transport– Readiness Communication from the European Commission of 16 March 2020

Traffic rights

The Comprehensive Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom gives both parties fundamental traffic rights, that is the first and second freedoms of the air (the right to fly across territory and to make stops in the territory for non-traffic purposes) as well as the third and fourth freedoms (the right to operate direct outbound and return flights for the carriage of cargo or passengers).

More extensive freedoms are not covered by the Agreement. However, the Agreement permits bilateral agreements with individual EU states on granting fifth freedom rights for air cargo services outside the EU. An agreement of this nature was concluded between the German and British aviation authorities allowing fifth freedom flights for air cargo services outside the EU since 22 September 2021. It does not provide for passenger air services under the fifth freedom. Code-share and blocked space arrangements may not replace this. Cabotage (the provision of transport services within a state by a transport operator from another state) is also ruled out.

Bilateral agreement may be reached on more extensive rights governing charter flights. This may concern the seventh freedom, under which passengers or cargo may be carried between two foreign states without the air link connecting to the respective home state.

The flight schedule of the Agreement is liberal and permits all landing points. Also permitted is the connection of various means of transport, also known as intermodal transport. The Member States are explicitly not allowed to bilaterally agree rights going beyond those mentioned above with the United Kingdom. In addition, the Agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom provides for earlier agreements and arrangements to be superseded.

Operating licences for air carriers

After the end of the transition period, Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008 governing the single EU aviation market will in principle no longer be applicable in the relationship with the United Kingdom.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement concluded between the EU and the United Kingdom provides for the operating licences for air carriers issued by both parties to remain valid. As of 1 January 2021, new operating licences issued by the United Kingdom will be subject to the condition that at least 50 percent of the air carrier is owned and controlled by the United Kingdom and/or its nationals and that the air carrier has its principal place of business in the United Kingdom.

Aviation security

Agreement has been reached on a comprehensive cooperative relationship that takes into account the fact that there are comparable aviation security standards in force in the United Kingdom and within the EU.

Thus, Article AIRTRN.19: “Aviation security” of the agreement text states, in particular, that the Parties shall provide all necessary assistance to each other to address any threat to the security of civil aviation (paragraph 1), act in conformity with the standards established by ICAO (paragraph 2), cooperate on aviation security matters to the highest extent (paragraph 4), make available to the other Party the results of audits carried out by ICAO (paragraph 5), cooperate on security inspections undertaken by them (paragraph 6), notify emergency measures taken by them immediately to the other Party (paragraph 8), assist each other in the case of incidents that pose a threat to the safety of civil aviation (paragraph 10) and have the possibility of requesting immediate consultations if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the other Party is not complying with the Article (paragraph 12).

In addition, the rules contained in Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/413 have been applicable since 1 January 2021. Under these rules, the EU will recognize the United Kingdom as a third country with comparable security standards. For this reason, carriers continue not to need designation as an “Air Cargo or Mail Carrier operating into the Union from a Third Country Airport” (ACC3) for the carriage of cargo or mail from the United Kingdom to the European Union. Carriers that are part of the supply chain of air cargo and mail from the United Kingdom to the EU continue not to need designation as a “third country regulated agent” (RA3) and/or as a “third country known consignor” (KC3).

Changes affect carriers that wish to carry cargo or mail to the EU from third countries other than the United Kingdom and that have so far used a corresponding designation by authorities of the United Kingdom. Since 1 January 2021, all designations or approvals of regulated agents and known consignors, regulated suppliers, EU validators as well as third country ACC3, KC3 or RA3 granted by the United Kingdom as a (former) EU Member State will no longer be recognized.

Further information can be found at:

Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/413

Aviation security and maritime security – Readiness Communication by the European Commission of 28 April 2020Readiness Communication of the European Commission of 28 April 2020

Aeronautical engineering

The Agreement also contains important facilitations for the aviation industry with regard to the approval of aeronautical products (aircraft, engines, propellers, components) and the approval of design and production organizations. A separate annex provides for a Certification Oversight Board to develop and evolve technical requirements binding on both Parties. Type certificates can then be validated on this basis. The EU has already established these procedures with other major aviation nations within the context of a bilateral aviation safety agreement. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom signed the EASA-CAA UK Technical Implementation Procedures for Airworthiness and Environmental Certification (TIP), which governs the extent of reciprocal recognition of aircraft certifications.

More information can be found here.

In other spheres, such as pilots’ licences, training, airports and air navigation services, the Agreement states only that there is initially an intention to cooperate. Specific rights and obligations cannot initially be derived from this. In principle, however, a Specialized Committee may adopt further annexes with appropriate contents and the legal obligation to accept the assessments of the other party provided that they meet the requirements set out in the annexes, including with regard to these other aspects to be subsumed under aviation safety.

More information can be found here.

Aviation Personnel

As stated above, the new Agreement addresses the validity of pilots’ licences after 31 December 2020 only to the extent that cooperation in the sphere would be desirable. This means that pilots’ licences issued by authorities of the United Kingdom will no longer be EU-compliant since 1 January 2021. Since then, holders of such licences can no longer operate aircraft registered in the EU. In accordance with international procedures, they may enter the EU only with aircraft that are registered in the United Kingdom. The basis for recognition of such licences that have been issued by third countries is the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/723 of 4 March 2020 laying down detailed rules with regard to the acceptance of third-country certification of pilots and amending Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011.However, pilots holding a United Kingdom licence who are interested in flying for an EU carrier or in flying aircraft registered in the EU have had sufficient time to transfer their licence and medical certificate to an authority of another EU Member State in a timely manner.

More information can be found here (German only).

Right to fly flags

British nationals and British companies no longer have the right to fly the German federal flag. British nationals or companies that are the owner of a ship flying the German flag have to immediately report the loss of their right to fly the German flag to the shipping register so that the entry
of the ship on the register can be deleted.

Maritime Transport (Readiness Notice of 4 June 2020)

Maritime cabotage

Regulation (EEC) 3577/92 has no longer been applicable since 1 January 2021. As a result, cabotage operations by British-registered ships under British flag require an approval by the Federal Waterways and Shipping Agency in accordance with section 2(2) of the Short Sea Shipping Regulations (Küstenschifffahrtsverordnung).

Recognized ship inspection and survey organizations

Regulation (EC) 391/2009 has been applicable since 1 January 2021 in the version amended by Regulation (EU) 2019/492, which ensures that recognized organizations that were initially recognized by the United Kingdom and enjoy Union recognition continue to be assessed in accordance with the requirements set out in Regulation (EC) 391/2009.

Port State Control

Directive (EC) 2009/16 and the rules of the Paris MoU remain applicable.

Safety of fishing vessels

UK fishing vessels still are not permitted to be operated in EU waters without certification under Directive (EC) 97/70.

Seafarer qualifications

It is still mandatory for holders of UK certificates of competency, maritime radio operator’s certificates and certificates of proficiency for service on tankers who want to work on board vessels flying the German flag to have a valid endorsement attesting recognition, which is issued upon request by the German shipping administration.

Maritime Transport (Readiness Notice of 28 April 2020)

Security Report

There is no longer the possibility of exemption – which exists for scheduled services between Member States of the EU under Article 7 of Regulation (EC) 725/2004 – from the provision of security information prior to entry into a port of a Member State of the EU. Consequently, masters of vessels operating scheduled services between an EU port and a port of the United Kingdom have, since 1 January 2021, had to submit a security report prior to entry into any given port.

Monitoring and Verification of CO2 Emissions from Maritime Transport (Readiness Notice of 16 July 2020)

Monitoring and reporting obligations under Regulation (EU) 2015/757

As of 1 January 2021, emissions from ships in UK ports and on voyages from UK ports to third country ports or vice versa are no longer covered by the monitoring and reporting obligations set out in Regulation (EU) 2015/757.


Monitoring processes described in the Regulation must be assessed and declared to be in conformity by accredited verifiers. After 31 December 2020, UK accreditation bodies will no longer be subject to the European provisions and can no longer submit assessments or issue documents of compliance.

Ship Recycling (Readiness Notice of 8 June 2020)
Since 1 January 2021, the Regulation on the Recycling of Ships ((EU) No 1257/2013) no longer applies to the United Kingdom. Regarding the recycling of vessels flying the flag of an EU Member State, the European list of ship recycling facilities1), as amended, must be observed.

1) Implementing Decision (EU) 2016/2323 as amended

On 21 September 2020, the European Commission published a Readiness Communication on Inland Waterway Transport.

Readiness Communication from the European Commission of 13 July 2020 on Road Transport

Commercial goods and passenger transport by road between the EU and the United Kingdom

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU provides that EU road haulage operators holding a valid EU Community licence may still undertake transport operations to and from the United Kingdom. EU road haulage operators will also be permitted to undertake up to two cabotage operations within seven days of the unloading in the United Kingdom. The new social legislation in force in the EU since 20 August 2020 will apply.

More information can be found here.

In carriage of passengers by road for hire or reward with buses and coaches, a distinction is made between occasional services and regular services. Occasional services between the EU and the United Kingdom are guaranteed by the Interbus Agreement. Cross-border regular services and special regular services with buses and coaches between the EU and the United Kingdom are guaranteed by the new Trade and Cooperation Agreement, until the Supplementary Protocol to the Interbus Agreement on regular services and special regular services has entered into force. After the Protocol enters into force, the provisions on this issue contained in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement will no longer be applicable.

Certificates of professional competence for drivers

Directive 2003/59/EC states that drivers of motor vehicles for the carriage of goods or passengers in the EU must hold certificates of attendance (the Directives calls them “certificates of professional competence”) issued by the competent authorities of an EU Member State or by an approved training centre in an EU Member State. The Agreement provides for a comparable certificate of professional competence for international transport between the United Kingdom and the EU.

Driving Licences

Since the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, a driving licence issued by the United Kingdom has no longer been recognized by Member States on the basis of Article 2 of Directive 2006/126/EC.

The recognition of driving licences issued by third countries is not addressed by Union law but regulated at Member States level.

After taking up normal residence in Germany, holders of a foreign driving licence are normally allowed to drive motor vehicles for another six months, within the scope of their entitlement.

If you have questions concerning the calculation of the six-month period in the case of holders of a United Kingdom driving licence who already live in Germany, please contact the Transport Ministry of your federal state that is responsible for the enforcement of driver licensing legislation or the driver licensing authority responsible for your place of residence.

Conversion of a UK driving licence into a German EU driving licence is governed in Annex 11 of the Regulations for the Licensing of Drivers (FeV). Driving licences of all driving licence categories are exchanged without tests.

Driver attestation for third-country drivers

After the end of the transition period, drivers who are United Kingdom nationals and do not constitute long-term residents in the Union, within the meaning of Directive 2003/109/EC, and who work for a Union haulier holding a Community licence will require a driver attestation. This driver attestation will be issued by the competent authorities of the Member State of establishment of the haulier holding a Community licence.

Motor vehicle type approval

On 14 July 2020, the European Commission published the Readiness Communication entitled “Withdrawal of the United Kingdom and EU Rules in the Field of Type-Approval of Vehicles, Systems, Components and Separate Technical Units”.

The administrative and technical requirements to be met by the type-approval and placing on the market of motor vehicles and their trailers and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles are harmonized to a very large extent in the European Union by Regulations (EU) 2018/858, (EU) 167/2013 as (EU) 168/2013 and (EU) 2016/1628.

After the end of the transition period, the United Kingdom approval authority will cease to be a type-approval authority within the meaning of the aforementioned type-approval legislation. As a result, it will no longer be possible to place on the market motor vehicles and components within the scope of this legislation on the basis of the approvals granted by this authority.

As a result, European lawmakers adopted Regulation (EU) 2019/26 complementing Union type-approval legislation and enabling manufacturers holding UK type-approvals to submit an application to another Union type-approval authority for a Union type-approval of the same type.

The placing on the market of individual vehicles will be governed by special arrangements provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement. The Withdrawal Agreement entered into force on 1 February 2020 and regulates the modalities of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU (not the future relationship). Special arrangements will also apply to Northern Ireland – the Union type-approval legislation will continue to be applicable there.

Future placing on the market of vehicles is governed by Annex TBT-1 of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. It requires the EU and the UK to reciprocally recognize future type-approvals that are based on the UNECE rules in the Agreement on Technical Harmonization in the Vehicle Sector of 1958. The exception is if the UK or EU has not acceded to the corresponding UN Regulation. However, both parties may provide for further requirements for approval of vehicles for road use.

On 19 August 2020, the European Commission published a Readiness Communication on Rail Transport.

On 5 June 2020, the European Commission published a Readiness Communication on transportable pressure equipment in transport between the EU and the United Kingdom setting out the regulatory framework that will apply after the transition period.


We would like to refer to the following additional information:

On its website, the European Commission has compiled Brexit preparedness notices for businesses and citizens, setting out the consequences in a range of policy areas.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) provides comprehensive information for companies on its website. It has also set up a Brexit information hotline, which citizens and companies can contact with their questions and concerns.

Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI), an agency of the Federal Republic of Germany, regularly provides information on topical issues and backgrounds on Brexit negotiations (German only)

On their website, the German customs authorities provide information regarding customs regulations and excise taxes in connection with Brexit.

"Brexit Checklist" of the Association of German Chambers of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (German only)