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Brexit: the withdrawal agreement draft – Euronews takes a look at the details

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Brexit: the withdrawal agreement draft – Euronews takes a look at the details

Theresa May announces her government will back the Brexit deal
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The Withdrawal Agreement agreed between the UK and the European Union on Tuesday is a 585-page document detailing the terms of the divorce and future relations between the two parties.

Euronews recaps the main takeaways — just in case you don't fancy reading it yourself.

You can watch a Brexit timeline in the player above — so you can remember how this all came about and click here to read the draft Brexit agreement in full.

Transition period

The UK is to officially leave the European Union on March 29, 2019, but a transition period has been agreed until the end of December 2020.

What it means is that during that interim period — designed to give negotiators more time to reach a final deal — the UK will continue to adhere to EU rules which include paying the membership fees. These have previously been estimated to tally £39 billion (€44.7 billion).

The agreement also allows for the transition period to be extended, although it doesn't tell us much other than the extension cannot be longer than 80 years.

ARTICLE 132

Extension of the transition period

1. Notwithstanding Article 126, the Joint Committee may, before 1 July 2020, adopt a single decision extending the transition period up to [31 December 20XX].

Irish backstop

The issue of how to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland — a British region — and the Republic — an EU member state — was one of the thorniest during the negotiations.

Fears are that a hard border would endanger the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which put an end to decades of sectarian violence on the island— hence why a so-called backstop needed to be agreed.

The deal proposes the creation of a "single customs territory" to apply until at least July 1, 2020, when it is hoped "an alternative arrangement" will have been found.

Two things to note:

  • How this "single customs territory" will work in practice has not been detailed, as in, it's not clear where and how customs checks will be operated. May has in the past been very firm that she will not accept a hard border in the British Sea;
  • Any decision — whether to extend the "single customs territory" beyond July 2020 or to terminate it — must be jointly agreed, so neither party can unilaterally pull out.

Legal disputes

One of the Brexiteers' major demands was to terminate the European Court of Justice's jurisdiction in the UK.

The agreement proposes through Article 174 that any legal dispute that arises between the UK and the EU be managed by joint committees, headed by a five-member arbitration panel, whose decisions will be binding.

However, any issues relating to EU law will still be referred to the European Court of Justice and its rulings will also be binding.

Citizens' rights

Putting an end to freedom of movement — one of the four cornerstones of the EU — was among the chief concerns for the UK.

An earlier agreement between the UK and EU guaranteed that EU citizens in the UK and Britons living on the continent would be able to continue to do so and would be able to request permanent residence before or during the transition period.

Here's one of the relevant articles in the deal:

Article 14 - Right of exit and of entry

1. Union citizens and United Kingdom nationals, their respective family members, and other persons, who reside in the territory of the host State in accordance with the conditions set out in this Title shall have the right to leave the host State and the right to enter it, as set out in Article 4(1) and the first subparagraph of Article 5(1) of Directive 2004/38/EC, with a valid passport or national identity card in the case of Union citizens and United Kingdom nationals, and with a valid passport in the case of their respective family members and other persons who are not Union citizens or United Kingdom nationals.

Five years after the end of the transition period, the host State may decide no longer to accept national identity cards for the purposes of entry to or exit from its territory if such cards do not include a chip that complies with the applicable International Civil Aviation Organisation standards related to biometric identification.

2. No exit visa, entry visa or equivalent formality shall be required of holders of a valid document issued in accordance with Article 18 or 26.

However, the right for British citizens settled in an EU country to freely move within the bloc — as they currently can — after Brexit remains up in the air and subject to a possible future agreement.

Level playing field

The UK agrees to respect "level playing field" commitments. In practice, it means that the UK cannot reverse legislation it agreed to as an EU member state in order to undercut European companies and give British firms an unfair advantage.

It also agrees to "non-regression" clauses in Article 2 and Article 6 to ensure labour and social standards, as well as environmental norms remain similar.

Article 2 also states that the UK will introduce a carbon pricing scheme.

The United Kingdom shall implement a system of carbon pricing of at least the same effectiveness and scope as that provided by Directive 2003/87/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 2003 establishing a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community.

Fisheries

Fishing rights were one of the hottest topics during the negotiations and the agreement shows no breakthrough has been achieved.

As per Article 6:

The Joint Committee shall adopt before 1 July 2020 the detailed rules relating to trade in goods between the two parts of the single customs territory for the implementation of this paragraph. In the absence of such a decision adopted before 1 July 2020, Annex 3 shall apply.

By derogation from the third subparagraph, fishery and aquaculture products, as set out in Annex I to Regulation (EU) 1379/2013 ("fishery and aquaculture products"), shall not be covered by the rules set out in Annexes 2 and 4, as well as the rules referred to in the fourth subparagraph, unless an agreement on access to waters and fishing opportunities is applicable between the Union and the United Kingdom.