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UK and EU reach agreement on 'relationship' after Brexit - what it means and key points

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Written by: Patrick Daly | Posted 22 November 2018 14:31

 UK and EU reach agreement on 'relationship' after Brexit - what it means and key points

An embattled Theresa May has arrived back from Brussels with something few predicted she would secure – an agreement setting out the Brexit vision.

After a tough seven days for the prime minister, some national media reports had speculated that the emergency European Council summit on Sunday, where European leaders will look at agreeing to the Brexit terms, would need to be postponed due to anger on both sides of the Channel.

But Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, tweeted on Thursday morning that he had sent a draft “political agreement” to EU leaders to consider before Sunday.

What had started off last week as a short seven-page document on the future agreement between Brussels and the UK was now ready to form the basis of a trade negotiation.

The news is a major win for Mrs May, who is looking to face down her Tory rebels over the terms of the deal.

In a statement outside Downing Street, a buoyed-looking PM said: “The British people want this to be settled. This deal is within our grasp.”

Here are the key points from the 26-page draft document.

It remains vague

Mrs May and EU leaders still need this political agreement – despite containing much more than what we saw last week – to be all things to all men in order to give it the best chance of being voted through by their respective parliaments.

It means that many aspects of the relationship are still not set in stone. On trading terms, there is talk of creating a “free trade area” with some agreement over customs regulations – “combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation” is how the document puts it.

That statement does not confirm one way or another how all-encompassing this will be.

This could be Chequers and the PM’s idea for following EU rules when trading goods, or it could be something more light-touch than that.

Read more: Bristol MPs and business leaders react to Theresa May's draft Brexit deal

No visas for holidays – but free movement ends
This was said in the original seven-page document released on November 14 but this draft political declaration says it even more plainly.

To holiday in EU member states, British people will not need short-term visas. But for those wanting to work on the Continent or travel for a long duration will find they require permission from EU or individual European countries beforehand – a situation that will be mirrored in Britain for EU migrant workers and travellers.

An open net for fishing

A promise was firmly made during the 2016 referendum (and one that has been reiterated by this government) – that the UK will become an independent coastal state after Brexit.

Mrs May has frequently said this means leaving the derided Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and taking control of who can fish in British waters.

The government says any fishing agreement will be separate from a free trade agreement.

ECJ jurisdiction will continue

If there are disagreements over the future trade deal, a five-person joint committee (two appointed by the EU, two from the UK and an independent chairman) will rule on what should happen.

But if the issue is over an interpretation of EU law (which the UK might have agreed to continue abiding by for trade reasons) then it will be the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that will have the power to interpret it. This will be a red-line for many dyed-in-the-wool Eurosceptics.

Read more: Bristol Technology Showcase to explore impact of 'new technologies' on city's businesses

The small print

It should be stressed that this document is not legally binding – it is a political declaration setting out how both sides want the future relationship to go.

Negotiating teams will strive to make it a reality after the Brexit deadline on March 29, 2019.

Mrs May has had lines inserted to ensure there is some flexibility on the Northern Ireland backstop – the issue which has caused the most problems among Tory MPs in the past week – with language suggesting a technical solution could be found to preventing a hard border in Ireland, meaning the backstop will never have to be used.

Whether it will be enough to pacify her critics remains to be seen. More than 80 Tory MPs are already signed-up to vote down her deal.

The PM will be hoping this latest Brexit development will chip a few of them off the rebel list.

Picture credit: Getty Images

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