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How both sides have fudged the most important issue of all

The Irish Issue

It was perhaps the most difficult part of the talks – how to square Brexit with the Irish peace process after the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) vetoed a proposed solution on Monday: 

The Hard Border

Both the Irish government and Sinn Fein insisted that there must be no barriers between the North and the Republic. Ministers promised not to impose any ‘physical infrastructure’ – meaning border checks and controls and even cameras. 

The Union’s Integrity

To reassure the DUP, Mrs May offered a series of assurances. Her six commitments included ‘fully protecting and maintaining’ Northern Ireland’s position within the UK’s single market, no new borders between the province and Great Britain, and an assurance Northern Ireland would leave the customs union and single market.

Prime Minister Theresa May has secured many aspects of the key issues surrounding Britain’s exit from the EU – but there are still something that remain unresolved

Fall-Back Position 

If the two sides fail to reach an agreement on what to do about the border, the UK agrees to maintain ‘full alignment’ with the rules of the single market and customs union which form part of the Good Friday Agreement. To some Brexiteers, this could be the poison pill which forces Northern Ireland – and the rest of the UK – to stay within the EU’s orbit.

The All-Important Divorce Bill 

Britain will eventually pay between £35 billion and £39 billion as part of the so-called Brexit ‘divorce bill’ – provided the EU agrees to the future trade and transition deal the Prime Minister wants. The Government hailed the deal because the payment is much lower than had been expected: 

Payments for a Two-Year Transitional Deal

About half of the divorce bill will cover British payments into the EU budget for a two-year transition period. Mrs May used her landmark Florence Brexit speech to announce her desire for a two-year ‘implementation phase’ that will effectively keep the UK in the EU for two years after Brexit. Ministers believe the deal will offer certainty to British businesses and avoid a ‘cliff edge’. In order to remain part of the EU during the period, the UK will guarantee to make payments of between £14.9 billion and £15.8 billion to Brussels until 2020. 

Money for ‘Outstanding Liabilities’ 

Britain will pay £20 billion towards EU spending projects and commitments that could run for decades after Brexit. The deal includes a commitment to pay between £7.9 billion and £8.8 billion towards the gold-plated pension scheme enjoyed by eurocrats, a bugbear for Brexiteers. At £59,000, the average Brussels pension payout is more than twice the average UK salary. The agreement also includes a UK commitment to cover payments towards the bloc’s spiralling debt pile. Payments, however, will be taken only as they arise for years to come – and in a boon to the UK, the EU has agreed not to add any additional liabilities that arise during the transition period.

Mrs May - pictured here having breakfast with Brexit Secretary David Davis and EU officials - has still not resolved the issue of the Irish border 

Mrs May – pictured here having breakfast with Brexit Secretary David Davis and EU officials – has still not resolved the issue of the Irish border 

Payments into EU Foriegn Aid Schemes

Britain will continue to contribute to the EU’s foreign aid programme until 2020, when the current funding round ends. Like with the wider EU budget, ministers acknowledge that commitments have been made and Britain has agreed to fulfil them. The likely cost is £2 billion. 

EU to Pay Back Our Bank Investment

Brussels has agreed to return – over time – our stake in the European Investment Bank. We will receive, over 12 years, 11 instalments of £263.6 million and a final payment of £172.2 million for our 16 per cent stake. The UK may consider taking a stake in the bank – which funds infrastructure projects – as part of phase two of the talks. 

Citizens’ Rights

Key planks of yesterday’s agreement concerned citizens’ rights and the role of the European Court of Justice:

Minor Role for European Judges

Britain will put into law the rights of EU citizens who decide to stay in Britain – which means anyone who arrives before March next year. Any legal disputes which arise over their rights will first be referred to the UK Supreme Court. However, British judges will have the option to refer such cases to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg if relevant case law doesn’t exist. This is expected to involve two or three cases a year at most, and crucially, with an eight-year sunset clause which begins from the start of any transitional deal.

Criminal Checks for EU Nationals 

Any EU nationals applying to stay in Britain after Brexit (who do not already have citizenship) will have to undergo ‘systematic criminality and security checks’. Those who fail the test will be refused the right to stay and forced to leave.

But the deal did settle the so-called divorce bill. Britain will eventually pay the EU between £35billion and £39billion

But the deal did settle the so-called divorce bill. Britain will eventually pay the EU between £35billion and £39billion

EU Nationals Bringing In Family Members

EU nationals who get the right to stay will be able to bring in existing husbands or wives as well as members of their extended family – regardless of whether they are EU or non-EU nationals. New relationships formed after Brexit will face tougher checks, the same as non-EU nationals. Any children born after Brexit will also be protected by the agreement, but this is limited to one generation. 

Child Benefit For EU Citizens

EU nationals who stay in Britain can get settled status and continue to receive social security payments – such as child benefit – which they can send back to their home countries. Britons living in EU member states will continue to be able to use European Health Insurance Cards to get free medical treatment in the country where they are resident. It is unclear whether the EHIC system will continue for British residents travelling abroad.

Rights for British Citizens in EU States and Free-Movement Rights

UK nationals have not been given the right to move freely for work around the EU post-Brexit, but will have to remain in the country where they reside. There is no deal on voting rights, which ministers will seek to negotiate with individual states. 

The ones who cheered 

Congratulations to PM for her determination in getting today’s deal. We now aim to forge a deep and special partnership with our European friends and allies while remaining true to the referendum result – taking back control of our laws, money and borders for the whole of the UK

Boris Johnson Foreign Secretary

I think it’s always a mistake to say what the result of the match is until the final whistle has blown. The final whistle blew this morning and Theresa May won

Michael Gove Environment Secretary

This is good progress, there’s going to be more to do but it shows that under Theresa May’s leadership we are able to have successful negotiations and take forward this really important step

Amber Rudd Home Secretary

The doomsters and pessimists have been confounded. All credit to the Prime Minister, who faced a monumental challenge

Lord Lamont Former Chancellor

There’s no red line down the Irish sea and we have the very clear confirmation that the entirety of the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union, leaving the single market, leaving the customs union and I think that’s a very important statement to have

Arlene Foster DUP Leader

While being satisfied with today’s agreement, which is obviously the personal success of Prime Minister Theresa May, let us remember the most difficult challenge is still ahead

Donald Tusk European Council president

This was a detailed, line-by-line process but [Theresa May] has been as good as her word. She was negotiating in a gentlemanly manner, and I am very grateful, Prime Minister, for that

Jean-Claude Juncker European Commission president

It’s a far way short of perfect, but we didn’t need perfect at this stage – this is about getting to trade talks

Iain Duncan Smith Former Tory leader

Despite being two months later than originally planned, it is encouraging that the European Commission has recommended sufficient progress in the Brexit negotiations.

Sir Keir Starmer Shadow Brexit Secretary

After the noise and political brinksmanship of recent days, news of a breakthrough in the negotiations will be warmly welcomed by companies across the UK

Dr Adam Marshall British Chambers of Commerce

…and the ones who jeered 

A good deal has to be better than this, otherwise the Government’s mantra that no deal is better than a bad deal should apply

John Redwood Tory backbencher

A deal in Brussels is good news for Mrs May as we can now move on to the next stage of humiliation

Nigel Farage Ex-Ukip leader

Tory chaos and posturing has caused damaging delay and risked serious harm to our economy

Jeremy Corbyn