Whether it is ever ratified and comes into force or not, the draft agreement on the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union is a historical document. In 585 pages, three protocols and various annexes, it is first listed what it means to arrange a division of property with the European Union. An overview of the most important elements.
The withdrawal agreement lays down the conditions for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The text must ensure that the division of property is organized in an ordered manner and provide legal certainty for governments, businesses and citizens who are affected by the consequences of the Brexit and the end of the application of European legislation in the United Kingdom.
Transitional Period Until 31 December 2020
The United Kingdom will leave the European Union on March 29, 2019 at midnight, but not too much will change if this agreement is approved. It provides a transitional period until 31 December 2020, which coincides with the end of the current European multi-annual budget. In those 21 months, the United Kingdom will continue to have access to the internal market, the customs union and all other European policy areas, with all additional rights and obligations. The British also continue to contribute to the European budgetPay. The only big difference is that they no longer participate in decision-making. They no longer sit in the councils of ministers and the European Parliament and lose their European commissioner.
This transitional period must give governments, businesses and citizens time to adjust. The negotiators of both camps must give time to reach an agreement on future relations. The transitional period can be extended once by mutual agreement. The maximum duration of this extension is not yet fixed and is still a feed for discussion for the coming days.
The big split in the negotiations. Both the EU and the British government have promised that no checks will be carried out on the border between the EU Member State Ireland and Northern Ireland. Such a hard border could have a negative impact on the Good Friday agreements and the peace process in Northern Ireland. But the question is how to avoid controls in a situation where Ireland is part of a European customs union and a single market and Northern Ireland is not.
Ideally, that issue is settled in the agreement on future relations, but the question arises what happens if no agreement is on the table before the end of the transition period. A safety net or ‘backstop’ is provided for this.
In that scenario, a European-British “customs territory” is created for goods, with the exception of agricultural and fishery products. No tariffs or quotas apply to goods circulating within this common territory, and the British levy the same tariffs as Europeans on goods imported from third countries. In order to avoid unfair competition between the EU and the United Kingdom, agreements have also been made to maintain a level playing field in areas such as taxes, social standards and the environment. Finally, the British must ensure that the rules in Northern Ireland remain aligned in a number of a reason that of the European single market. For example, it concerns VAT, product standards and state aid.
This should ensure that Northern Irish companies can continue to sell their products unhindered in Ireland and the rest of the EU. However, controls will have to be carried out on industrial goods going to Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, but these can largely be carried out at the locations of traders and companies. In Irish and Northern Irish ports and at airports veterinary checks on animals and agricultural products will take place, but that is already happening. The number of inspections will increase.
The safety net can only be cancelled by mutual consent, including from the EU. It is hard to believe that they remain locked up for a long time in a customs community that prevents their country from entering into free trade agreements with third countries. London could enter into agreements with third countries on trade in services and investment.
These agreements should guarantee the 3.2 million citizens of EU Member States living in the UK and the 1.2 million Britons living in the European Union guarantee that they can continue their lives as they do today. They also apply to everyone who moves until the end of the transition period at the end of 2020.
After the end of 2020, these people will be able to continue to work, study, receive social allowances and pensions under the conditions in their host country and have their family members come over. However, EU citizens must submit an application for residency status in the United Kingdom. Those who are legally resident in the United Kingdom for five years can obtain an upgrade of their residence status.
Throughout decades of membership, the UK has entered into a number of financial commitments that the country must comply with. Consider, for example, pension rights for European civil servants or guarantees for European loans, but the most important financial commitment is the contributions to the budgets of 2019 and 2020, the last two years in the current multi-annual budget. The agreement only includes a methodology for calculations, not precise amounts. The British government calculates the total “bill” at around £40 billion (EUR 45 billion). If the transition period is extended, London will of course also have to pay a contribution.
Other Own Separation Agreements
In addition to these large dossiers, the agreement includes a wide range of appointments in numerous domains that ensure an orderly departure. These include, for example, police cooperation, the functioning of the European arrest warrant, the British departure from Euratom, the protection of intellectual property rights and more than 3,000 European geographical indications, the use of data and information exchanged before the end of the transitional period. Goods placed on the market before the end of the transitional period but have not yet reached their final destination, and so on.
Supervision Of The Agreement
Sensitive subject matter for hard Brexiters, because the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice has been a thorn in the eye for years. Yet that court continues to play an important role.
The withdrawal agreement contains many references to European legislation (e.g. for civil rights) and for this the Court remains the ultimate referee in Luxembourg. In disputes about the application of the agreement, political consultation will first take place in a ‘joint committee’. If that does not mean anything, an arbitration panel must give a definite answer. If it relates to European legislation, that panel must refer the case to the Court, which will make a binding decision.
The Court also continues to play a role in other areas. For example, European citizens can invoke the withdrawal agreement before British courts. They can refer preliminary questions to the Court for another eight years. Over time, the role of the Court in the United Kingdom will become ever smaller.