The Brexit deadline looms, barely one year and three months away. As the UK scrambles to try and clinch a deal that would prevent a hard Brexit scenario, the British government and the European Union have at least come to an agreement on the first phase of withdrawal, which encompasses the rights of citizens, the Irish border question, and the divorce bill. Yesterday, the respective negotiating teams have released a joint progress report, detailing the outcome of the first phase of talks. A deal has – in principle – been reached on the package as a whole, as opposed to individual elements. The picture painted is one of an essential British capitulation to budgetary contributions, the realities of the customs union, as well as a commitment to a common framework of principles.
The focus for this first phase consisted primarily of three key issues:
- the rights of Union and UK citizens after withdrawal
- the question of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border
- the framework for the financial settlement.
There is clear intent of minimizing the disruption to the daily lives of people who are currently residing in a Union country or are living in the UK. This includes family units, children born or legally adopted and partners in a durable relationship, who can also apply for reunification if they wish to reside in either of the other territories.
Equal treatment will apply regarding workers rights, education, the unemployed or those citizens who are dependent on any form of social assistance or health care.
Both parties have expressed their intent to keep the administrative hassle and costs for citizens to a minimum. The host State will refrain from imposing any unnecessary administrative burdens on the citizens and application forms will be short, simple, user friendly. The authorities are to exercise discretion in favour of the applicant wherever possible. Deadlines are promised to be more lenient and favoring the applicants.
The implementation of the terms of the deal will be monitored by the European Commission in Union territory, and by an independent national authority in the UK.
Ireland and Northern Ireland
Britain and the European Union have agreed that North-South cooperation in Ireland relies to a significant extent on a common European legal and policy framework – something which Theresa May’s government had previously been adamant was not the case.
Since the United Kingdom wishes to uphold the so-called Good Friday or Belfast Agreement of 10th April 1998, London made a commitment to avoid a hard border, including any physical infrastructure or related checks and controls. In accordance with this they also recognized the birth right of all the people of Northern Ireland to choose to be Irish or British or both and be accepted as such.
There are several mentions of a need for further, more specific arrangements to be made, but the United Kingdom declared that it commits to ensuring that no downsizing of rights is caused by its departure from the European Union.
The UK will contribute to, and participate in, the implementation of European annual budgets for the years 2019 and 2020 as if it was still a member – including revenue adjustments. It will also participate in the surplus exercise with respect to 2020. The Union space programmes (EGNOS, Galileo & Copernicus) are not a part of this financial settlement. Outstanding commitments etc. through to 2020 will be calculated as if the UK had remained a member, in accordance with the Own Resources legislation.
Relationship with Union bodies and funds
Following withdrawal, the UK will continue to participate in the Union programmes financed by the MFF 2014-2020 10 until their closure. The UK states that it may wish to participate in some Union budgetary programmes after this, as a non-Member State.
The UK will also respect the European Investment Bank’s privileges and immunities. And since the UK considers that there could be mutual benefit from a continuing arrangement with the EIB, they wish to explore possible deals during the second phase of the negotiations. Even so, after the date of withdrawal, British projects will not be eligible for new operations from the EIB reserved for Member States.
The paid-in capital of the UK in the European Central Bank (ECB) will be reimbursed to the Bank of England (BoE) after the date of withdrawal.
The UK will honour the commitments it made before withdrawal to the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, and European Union trust funds, and it will also remain party to the European Development Fund (EDF) which is governed by a separate international agreement.
The UK has committed to continued responsible safeguarding when it comes to nuclear power with a promise to maintain effectiveness equivalent to existing Euratom arrangements.
Conflicts and issues pertaining to cooperation in civil, commercial as well as police and judicial matters will be handled under Union law.
As part of the deal, goods from the common market will be able to circulate freely between the markets of the UK and the Union without the need for any modifications or re-labelling. As to the functioning of Union institutions, agencies and bodies, both parties agreed that an arrangement similar to the current rules should stay in place.
The UK and the Commission have both proposed further issues which will be addressed later in phase two of the negotiations along with the practical aspects and schedule of payments.
External contribution by Judit Kovács