The European Union and British negotiators have agreed on the most conditions of the United Kingdom’s divorce from the bloc, thus almost finalizing terms of the 21-month transition following the actual Brexit. The only unresolved and thorny issue remains the future of Ireland, which could eventually derail the rest of the deal.
The agreement made at the beginning of this week opened the way for talks on the UK’s future economic and security relationship with the EU – two of the UK’s priorities. However, the most important pieces of the Brexit deal are still to be finalized, within one year’s time. Both sides still need to agree on the remaining terms of the withdrawal, the transition and the broad strokes of post-Brexit relations with the bloc. All of this will need to be summarized in one legal text approved by the UK, EU governments and the European Parliament.
The UK is generally seeking a much closer economic relationship following the Brexit than the EU is willing to accept for a country that does not want to allow free movement of EU citizens and won’t follow the rulings of the EU’s top court. Both the EU and British negotiators, Michel Barnier and David Davis, also commented earlier this week that a “decisive step” has been agreed on, giving businesses and governments on both sides more time to adjust to Brexit.
As things stand now, the new economic relationship will follow the EU’s rules and the UK will continue to trade freely in the EU’s single market until the end of 2020. However, London will no longer have a say on the rules and regulations. The UK will be able to negotiate and sign its own trade deals after the transition is over. The UK also agreed that EU migrants who will move to the UK in the transition period would have the same rights as those EU citizens who already are in the country.
Despite the major progress, Mr. Barnier warned that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” pointing out to the Irish issue that will need to be resolved before the final Brexit terms are approved. There are concerns that the re-emergence of a border in the island of Ireland could jeopardize a 20-year-old peace accord allowing people and goods to move freely between the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU, and Northern Ireland, a part of the U.K.