THE Brexit withdrawal agreement, 585 pages of delicious terms and arrangements, sets out how the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019.
But what exactly is in the agreement and what has been the response to it?
What’s in the agreement?
The 585-page document was published after a five-hour-long Cabinet meeting at Downing Street.
The draft Brexit agreement covers “divorce issues”, setting out arrangements for citizens’ rights, the transitional period, matters of the ECJ, and matters of the Irish border.
It also establishes a new joint committee between the UK and EU which will oversee the implementation and interpretation of Brexit and the withdrawal agreement.
The transitional (or implementation) period will end on the December 31, 2020, however this can be extended if decided by the joint committee before the 1st July 2020.
If the transition period is extended, for whatever reason, the UK will still contribute financially to the EU budget for as long as required.
The Northern Ireland Border
The draft agreement says that if there is no trade agreement between the UK and the EU, there are two options – an increase transition period or the use of the “backstop” to ensure there is no hard border in Ireland.
The backstop is the agreement both sides struck in December 2017 to guarantee to avoid a hard border under all circumstances.
If the backstop is needed, it will involve a temporary customs union encompassing not just Northern Ireland but the whole of the UK, in order to respect the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK.
However, Northern Ireland will be in a deeper customs relationship with the EU than Great Britain, including being more closely tied to the rules of the EU single market.
Matters of the withdrawal agreement will be handled by a new joint committee with representatives from both the United Kingdom and European Union.
It will be held responsible for the implementation of the withdrawal agreement, and to resolve any issue with its interpretation.
A number of committees will also be established for matters of citizens’ rights, finance, the Irish border, Gibraltar, Cyprus, and other withdrawal issues.
The Rights Of UK And EU Citizens
For UK/EU nationals seeking a new residence status, their new host country must ensure a “smooth, transparent and simple” administrative procedure, and application forms must be “short, simple and user friendly”.
Applications made as a family at the same time will also be considered together.
In order for these applications to be processed, the UK will continue to take part in European Union IT systems that share social security information, and will continue to pay “related costs”.
The agreement will mean an end of freedom of movement of people.
The government will then introduce their own new skills-based immigration system, likely to be similar to the Australian points-style immigration model.
The UK and the EU has agreed that citizens will not need visas to travel between countries for tourism and temporary business activity.
The government insist that Britain will be able to strike its own trade deals around the world.
We are allowed to work on the deals from 30th March 2019, but they won’t be allowed to come into force until after the transition period has finished.
What was the verdict on the deal?
After a two-hour meeting with EU officials, the PM said progress was being made on the future shape of EU-UK relations.
The French, Dutch and Danish governments are concerned about the amount of access their fishing fleets will get to British waters.
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There are broader concerns about what the Brexit agreement will mean for the future of the single market, if the UK ends up enjoying preferential access to EU markets but does not have to comply with freedom of movement rules.
The other major issue is the future of Gibraltar, the British overseas territory which Spain has long laid claim to.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has said his country will not agree to the deal unless changes are made to the wording over Gibraltar.
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