After Theresa May finally hammered out a Brexit deal that could be used to guide Britain out of the European Eunion, Ian Drury analyses what exactly is in the agreement…
FUTURE TRADE DEAL
The 26-page political declaration makes clear that both sides want an ‘ambitious, comprehensive and balanced’ agreement covering goods and financial services. There would be zero tariffs on goods imported from the EU into the UK under an arrangement that goes ‘well beyond’ that between the EU and other countries.
The document also recognise ‘the development of an independent trade policy by the UK’, paving the way for the country to signs deals with other countries.
But it also says that both sides should seek to ‘build and improve’ on the single customs territory in the withdrawal agreement that sets out the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU.
Brexiteers are concerned that would bind the UK so firmly into EU rules on goods – a future deal that resembles the customs union.
Staying in close alignment to EU rules was the price for reducing any damage to trade from ‘friction’ at the border and protecting industries which rely on swift movement of parts, such as car manufacturers.
Controversially, it says the UK should be bound to the same standards as the EU over ‘state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environmental standards, climate change, and relevant tax matters’.
It also reminds the UK that the more economic rights it retains, the more obligations it will be forced to take on board.
The transition period before Britain leaves the EU could be extended until the end of 2022 – six-and-a-half years after the country voted for Brexit.
The clarification will irk Brexiteers because the UK could be tied to Brussels rules and pay billions into its coffers for two more years, without having a say over decisions.
But they will be relieved the withdrawal agreement has finally fixed an end date. Previously, the date read 20XX in the document – leading some Brexiteers to warn it could mean abiding by EU regulations until 2099. Designed to avoid a Brexit ‘cliff edge’, the transition period acts as a bridge in which negotiations can continue on the future trade deal.
May shakes hands with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker before a meeting to discuss draft agreements on Brexit, at the EC headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday
The draft of the declaration was published today after intense horse-trading between the UK and EU nations
Last week Mrs May said it was important that the UK is out of the transition period by the next general election, scheduled for June 2022. Calls from Cabinet Brexiteers for the £39billion ‘divorce payment’ to be linked to the future deal appear to have failed, however.
AND ‘MAX FAC’
The controversial ‘backstop’, where the whole of the UK stays in the EU customs union if there is no deal after the transition period, is still in place. The proposal, demanded by Brussels to protect the single market, would come into force to avoid a ‘hard’ border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. That angered the DUP, whose ten MPs prop up the Government, because the province would follow single market rules on goods – meaning a different regulatory regime, prompting fears of the break-up of Britain.
It also sparked anger and anxiety among Brexiteers, who were concerned the UK would effectively be ‘locked in’ to the EU in perpetuity, unable to pursue international trade deals.
But in a significant victory for Mrs May, the declaration explicitly says that the EU has agreed to the ‘determination’ to replace this with ‘alternative arrangements’ to keep the border open.
This revives the so-called ‘Max Fac’ – maximum facilitation – technological solution favoured by Eurosceptics that was dismissed many times by the EU.
Other measures, such as the mutual recognition of trusted traders’ programmes and ‘facilitative arrangements and technologies’ to prevent checks at the border ‘will also be considered’. One glitch is that technological solutions that avoid the need for any border infrastructure are not in operation anywhere in the world.
If the backstop is activated, European judges will have jurisdiction over how its customs code, technical regulations, VAT and excise, agriculture and the environment, single electricity market and state aid apply in the province.
The separate withdrawal agreement says the UK would not be able to leave the backstop unilaterally and would have to apply to an independent arbitration panel. No 10 insists it hopes the backstop will never be triggered.
Clearly the biggest win for the Prime Minister, the declaration promises that free movement of people from between Britain and the EU ‘will no longer apply’. Mrs May was unwilling to compromise on what was a demand for millions who voted Leave.
From the end of 2020, Britain will set its own migration rules. Ministers have made clear they want to attract the ‘brightest and best’ high-skilled workers from anywhere in the world. But in return for a better trade deal, the EU is certain to demand preferential treatment. For longer visits, visas will be needed. But the declaration seeks to provide visa-free travel for short-term visits including business and tourism.
Both sides will also allows the other’s nationals to move for the purposes of research, study, training and youth exchanges – a boost for UK universities.
CRIME AND SECURITY
Britain and the EU have not yet managed to nail down a bespoke deal on crime and security co-operation.
But both sides have agreed to work towards a ‘broad and comprehensive’ partnership, covering threats including terrorism, cyber-attacks and organised crime. They are working towards reaching agreement on exchanging passenger names, DNA, fingerprints, and car registration data.
The Prime Minister (pictured yesterday) also had to fend off repeated calls for a second referendum, mainly from the Labour benches but also from her own
They are also considering putting in place arrangements for the UK to access data on the Second Generation Schengen Information System (SIS II), a database of 76million real time alerts for wanted or missing people.
The UK is likely to co-operate with the EU law and order agencies Europol and Eurojust.
And arrangements to allow the ‘efficient and expeditious’ extradition of criminals are set to be put in place, currently covered by the European Arrest Warrant. If no agreement is reached, the EU would suffer because of Britain’s significant intelligence and policing capabilities – instrumental in foiling terror plots on the continent.
Britain will be an ‘independent coastal state’ for fishing rights. Mrs May also told MPs there would be ‘unfettered sovereignty’ over UK waters.
Ditching membership of the unpopular Commons Fisheries Policy, Mrs May says she will not ‘trade away’ fishing rights. But there are concerns because the document proposes a ‘new agreement on access to waters and quota shares’, negotiated annually.
It urges the two sides to use their ‘best endeavours’ to sign a deal on fishing rights by July 2020, to be in place by the beginning of 2021. Fishing rights are seen as totemic for many Brexit supporters, but EU member states such as France will lobby vocally for access to UK waters.
Mrs May insists that the UK will regain control of its laws after Brexit. However, the declaration makes clear that the European Court of Justice will still have a significant role in British affairs – even if direct jurisdiction will end.
Echoing the divorce deal, disputes between Britain and an EU country will be resolved involving a joint committee and an independent arbitration panel.
But if the issue involves interpretation of EU law – and there will be plenty in any future relationship – it will be referred to the ECJ for a ‘binding ruling’.
Needless to say, the proposal has gone down badly with Brexit supporters.
A draft Brexit deal agreed – but how WILL Theresa May persuade her Cabinet, Brussels and Parliament to back it (and save her job)?
Theresa May (pictured at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet on Monday) has struck a Brexit deal with Brussels – but now has to sell it to her Cabinet and then Parliament
Emergency EU Summit, Brussels, November 25
What will happen? If the divorce package is agreed between the two sides, it will need to be signed off by EU leaders.
EU council president Donald Tusk will convene a summit where formal approval will be given by EU leaders. This is expected sometime between November 22 and 25.
Will the whole deal be agreed? The Brexit deal is due to come in two parts – a formal divorce treaty and a political declaration on what the final trade deal might look like.
The second part may not be finished until a regular EU summit due on December 13-14.
Assuming the negotiations have reached an agreement and Mrs May travels to Brussels with her Cabinet’s support, this stage should be a formality.
What if there is no agreement? If EU leaders do not sign off on the deal at this stage, no deal becomes highly likely – there is just no time left to negotiate a wholly new deal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) is still a crucial figure in the Brexit drama
The so-called ‘meaningful vote’ in the UK Parliament, December 2019
What will happen: A debate, probably over more than one day, will be held in the House of Commons on terms of the deal.
It will end with a vote on whether or not MPs accept the deal. More than one vote might happen if MPs are allowed to table amendments.
The vote is only happening after MPs forced the Government to accept a ‘meaningful vote’ in Parliament on the terms of the deal.
What happens if May wins? If the meaningful vote is passed, there will be a series of further votes as the withdrawal treaty is written into British law.
It will be a huge political victory for the Prime Minister and probably secure her version of Brexit.
What happens if she loses? This is possibly the most dangerous stage of all.
The Prime Minister will have to stake her political credibility on winning a vote and losing it would be politically devastating.
Brexiteers do not want to sign off the divorce bill without a satisfactory trade deal and Remainers are reluctant to vote for a blind Brexit.
She could go back to Brussels to ask for new concessions before a second vote but many think she would have to resign quickly.
The Prime Minister (pictured at the EU Council in June) has made clear the UK will leave without a deal if MPs reject her package
Ratification in the EU, February 2019
What will happen? After the meaningful vote in the UK, the EU will have to ratify the agreement.
The European Parliament must also vote in favour of the deal. It has a representative in the talks, Guy Verhofstadt, who has repeatedly warned the deal must serve the EU’s interests.
Will it be agreed? In practice, once the leaders of the 27 member states have agreed a deal, ratification on the EU side should be assured.
If the deal has passed the Commons and she is still in office, this should not be dangerous for the Prime Minister.
Exit day, March 29, 2019
At 11pm on March 29, 2019, Britain will cease to be a member of the European Union, two years after triggering Article 50 and almost three years after the referendum.
Exit happens at 11pm because it must happen on EU time.
If the transition deal is in place, little will change immediately – people will travel in the same way as today and goods will cross the border normally.
But Britain’s MEPs will no longer sit in the European Parliament and British ministers will no longer take part in EU meetings.
Negotiations will continue to turn the political agreement on the future partnership into legal text that will eventually become a second treaty. Both sides will build new customs and immigration controls in line with what this says.
Transition ends, December 2020
The UK’s position will undergo a more dramatic change at the end of December 2020, when the ‘standstill’ transition is due to finish.
If the negotiations on a future trade deal are complete, that could come into force.
But if they are still not complete the Irish border ‘backstop’ plan could be triggered.
Under current thinking, that means the UK staying in the EU customs union and more regulatory checks between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.
Eurosceptics fear this arrangement will prevent the country striking trade deals elsewhere, and could effectively last for ever, as Brussels will have no incentive to negotiate a replacement deal.