UK Withdrawal from the EU – Brexit Deal Highlights

The European Commission and the United Kingdom negotiators have reached a deal on the terms of the Article 50 Withdrawal Agreement.

The main elements of the 585-page document are:

  • A temporary EU-UK customs union will be in place until a solution on the hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is found.  This essentially means that a de facto customs union will apply until negotiators come up with a permanent alternative.
  • On citizens’ rights, the Withdrawal Agreement states that “As part of the future relationship with the EU, the UK will also seek to secure onward movement opportunities for UK nationals in the EU who are covered by the citizens’ rights agreement.” Keeping in mind the life choices of over 3 million EU citizens in the UK, and over 1 million UK nationals in EU countries, safeguarding their right to stay and ensuring that they can continue to contribute to their communities.
  • Financial services – After Brexit, access for financial service companies to the single market will be via the EU’s equivalence framework — which allows access to certain services on the basis that rules in a country outside the bloc are similar enough to those inside.
  • How will the EU-UK relationship be governed? The withdrawal agreement sets up a Joint Committee to oversee its implementation, composed of 25 people — 10 proposed by the U.K., 10 by the EU and five by both sides to serve on arbitration panels to deal with disputes.
  • There is a transition period, during which the EU will treat the UK as if it were a Member State, with the exception of participation in the EU institutions and governance structures.
  • The future agreement is accompanied by a skeleton 8-page political declaration on the future relationship covering areas such as data protection, security and aviation.

Next steps:

The EU and UK negotiators will continue their work on the political declaration on the framework for the future relationship. It is up to the President of the European Council to decide whether and when to convene a meeting of the 27 Heads of State or Government. It will be up to the European Council (Article 50) to endorse the Withdrawal Agreement and the joint political declaration on the framework of the future relationship.

Once the Withdrawal Agreement is endorsed by the European Council (Article 50), and before it can enter into force, it needs to be ratified by the EU and the UK. For the EU, the Council of the European Union must authorise the signature of the Withdrawal Agreement, before sending it to the European Parliament for its consent. The United Kingdom must ratify the agreement according to its own constitutional arrangements. In practice, this means that the House of Commons in the UK will have to approve the Agreement.

You can find the Withdrawal Agreement in its entirety here, and can watch the press statements by European Council President Tusk and EC Chief Negotiator for Article 50 Negotiations with the UK Michel Barnier.

Maltese Government Position

The Government is closely following the developments on the negotiations on the UK’s Withdrawal from the Union. In the coming days there are a number of meetings taking place in Brussels both at technical and political levels to go over the text that has been agreed between the Union Negotiator and the UK Government. Whilst the majority of this text remains unchanged, there are some changes which are still being studied at technical level. In this regard, it is pertinent to note that this agreement – in the Government’s view, adequately covers the issues related to Citizens’ Rights and the Financial Settlement. It is also reassuring that the Transitional Arrangements remain unchanged, albeit there is now the possibility to extend these, if the UK agrees to appropriately contribute to the EU budget.

Furthermore, negotiations will now continue until the Heads of State or Government meeting, tentatively scheduled for Sunday 25 November on the Political Declaration on the Framework for the Future Relationship between the UK and the EU. The annotated draft of this document setting out the priority areas and the kind of relationship that the Union will be forging with the UK for the future, i.e. following the end of the transition period, will now be beefed up.

Finally, it is pertinent to note that although the Government welcomes the UK Cabinet endorsement of the Withdrawal Agreement it also remains committed to continue work on preparedness and contingency measures. Until this agreement is ratified by the UK Parliament, such work will continue.

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