It seems to come after all: a Brexit without a trade agreement.

As of January 1, the United Kingdom will no longer be part of the internal European market and trade will proceed according to the rules of the World Trade Organization WTO.

What does that mean in concrete terms?

Formally, a trade agreement may still be on the table until December 31.

If that does not happen, then, from Europe's point of view, the United Kingdom will suddenly become a so-called third country, like the United States, with which there are no further agreements.

The WTO currently represents more than 160 countries.

Each member has a list of duties and quotas that apply per product to any other country with which no trade agreement exists.

According to that tariff list, the British have to pay a 48 percent levy on, for example, the import of Dutch minced meat.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and others in the camp of the sharpeners in the Brexit debate often talk about Australia when they outline the situation after January 1.

After all, the EU does not have a trade agreement with that country and that is otherwise fine, is the reasoning.

No trade agreement, but separate agreements

It should be noted, however, that there may not be a comprehensive trade agreement, but that there are separate agreements between the EU and Australia.

This includes guidelines on the quality of the products, for example.

There are no such partial agreements between the EU and the UK, which have to start from scratch to build up a trade relationship.

As mentioned, the WTO tariffs relate to specific products and the level of the charges varies considerably.

On average, the EU applies a tax of 2.8 percent on British products.

For cars, however, that rate is already 10 percent and for some agricultural products it rises to 35 percent.

Import duties can vary

Conversely, the British will also start to pass on hefty import duties, especially on cars and on food.

The high taxation of these products in particular has to do with protectionist motives.

These are industries that are of great importance to the domestic economy of the British.

On the other hand, taxes on products that the UK produces less or not at all itself may be lower.

This includes roses.

There is another catch here: the WTO rules do not allow the UK to apply a lower rate only to European exporters in this case.

That must therefore be done for all other WTO member states.

Even more changes in the trade relationship

Apart from the import tariffs, much more is changing in the trade relationship between the EU and the UK.

For example, the same agreements still apply on the quality of products and on health and safety requirements.

Soon that will not be the case without a deal.

Then it could happen that companies start producing separately for the UK, because certain ingredients are not allowed in food there, for example.

What all this will mean for the volume of trade between the EU and the UK is still uncertain.

The UK's Center for Economic Performance estimates that two-way trade will decline by 40 percent over the next ten years.