Brexit negotiations are still ongoing although the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on the 31st of December. As I understand it there are essentially three options.

  1. Some kind of trade deal is agreed, this would have to be ratified by all EU members individually.
  2. A further extension to Brexit is negotiated, again this would have to be ratified by all EU members individually.
  3. There is no agreement that is ratified by all EU members (and the UK) so there will be a hard Brexit.

Even if they are all willing, agreement from all individual EU members seems difficult to achieve in the short remaining time frame.

Are there any other options that could be negotiated just between the UK and EU?

  • 5
    I think you mean a "further extension to the transition period," as the UK has already left the EU. Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 17:12

1 Answer 1


The Institute for Government documents the possibilities in these circumstances.

It is possible for a deal to be just approved at the EU level following a decisions by members states governments.

Member state governments could collectively decide to limit ratification at the EU level, so in the Council of the EU and European Parliament. The 2019 Japan–EU trade agreement was ratified as an ‘EU-only agreement’ though it included provisions of shared competence. The UK’s negotiating mandate suggests the government wants an agreement similar to this.

This is considered unlikely. Moving forward under that understanding we come to provisional ratification.

The EU could provisionally apply the UK–EU treaty pending full ratification – but the Council of the EU would need to consent to provisional application before 11:00pm on 31 December 2020.

The European Parliament has asked the Council of the EU not to agree to provisional application until MEPs have had the chance to scrutinise and vote on a trade deal.[4] However, this is not a legal requirement.

Under provisional ratification the treaty would come into force as if it were fully ratified, with that state expected to follow later. To date no treaty that was provisionally ratified has failed to obtain full ratification later.

The full page discusses the time table of previous ratifications, how certain provisions were delayed from taking effect and so on. The full page was last updated on Nov 23 2020 at time of writing, so is up to date by any reasonable understanding.

  • Has any treaty that the EP asked not to be provisionally ratified, been provisionally ratified (and then ratified?) (If so, that strengthens the "ignore the request not to provisional ratify, it doesn't matter". If not, it weakens that argument.)
    – Yakk
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 4:11
  • @Yakk if I understand your question correctly, then No, not as far as I am aware. The EP has never expressed opposition to any treaty that Council has provided provisional assent to. It's probably also worth making clear that Brexit is very usual because generally these treaties will encode an increase in integration between the EU and the third party, but for Brexit the UK is currently at it's maximum integration state and it is unclear how to handle the situation. Usually the status quo would continue until provisions come into affect, that isn't possible here.
    – Jontia
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 8:20

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