Tuesday 15 October 2019

Breaking down the Brexit deal: The devil in the detail of the proposal

Opening the door: UK Prime Minister Theresa May prepares to greet Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at 10 Downing Street yesterday. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Opening the door: UK Prime Minister Theresa May prepares to greet Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at 10 Downing Street yesterday. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The political declaration between the EU and the UK outlines the general parameters of the future relationship. It is non-binding and will form the basis of the next stage of Brexit negotiations, provided Theresa May can convince Westminster to ratify the withdrawal deal agreed in recent weeks.

We look at the key points in the declaration:

Laying the groundwork

The declaration lays the groundwork for a future relationship between the EU and the UK which it says will be an "ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership" based on "a balance of rights and obligations". The document also says negotiations may end up seeing additional areas of cooperation beyond what is laid out in the declaration.

Level playing field

The EU and the UK have agreed a "level playing field" will be built on in the future relationship to ensure "open and fair competition". This will cover "state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environmental standards, climate change, and relevant tax matters".

Northern Ireland and the Irish Border

There is a renewed commitment to set up a Peace Plus programme (which will receive continued funding from both the UK and the EU).

There are also pledges to protect the Good Friday Agreement. On the question of a hard border, the political declaration appears to leave the door open to "max fac", or maximum facilitation.

This was pursued by some Brexiteers during the negotiations. Max fac would see technological solutions to track goods rather than needing to install infrastructure along the Border.

This has previously been shot down by the EU and Ireland on the basis that the technology is not yet advanced enough to do this.

However, the declaration says: "Facilitative arrangements and technologies will also be considered in developing any alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing."

The declaration underlines the "determination" to replace the backstop with an alternative arrangement. It also says preparatory work on a number of areas will begin as soon as the exit deal is ratified.


The two sides have pledged a "free trade area as well as wider sectoral co-operation".

Both the EU and the UK "envisage comprehensive arrangements that will create a free trade area, combining deep regulatory and customs co-operation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition".

Both have pledged to promote the "avoidance of unnecessary barriers to trade in goods".

The declaration also references an "independent trade policy".

Customs and regulation

The declaration signals plans to build on the shared customs territory provided for in the withdrawal agreement. The text notes the economic partnership "should ensure no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors".

There will be ambitious customs arrangements that "build and improve on the single customs territory provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement which obviates the need for checks on rules of origin".

Immigration and travel

The declaration notes that free movement to the UK will end. New laws will be drawn up to allow visa-free travel for short-term visits.

Any changes to immigration laws will be "without prejudice" to the maintenance of the Common Travel Area between Britain and Ireland.

The maintenance of the CTA has already been left as a matter between Ireland and the UK under the withdrawal agreement.

Conditions will also be considered to allow travel for the purposes of research, study, training and youth exchanges.

Planes, trains and roads

A Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement will be drawn up to maintain open skies, while both "should ensure comparable market access for freight and passenger road transport operators".

"Complementary" arrangements to address travel by private motorists should also be looked at according to the document.

Bilateral arrangements will be put in place to keep cross-border train lines open - including the Belfast-Dublin Enterprise line.


Regaining autonomous control of the UK's waters is one of the key aims of Brexit. Mrs May has insisted that this deal will give the UK back control of its waters in the face of opposition from the Labour Party.

The text recognises the UK as an "independent coastal state" and a new fisheries deal will be pursued in the hope of signing it by July 2020.

Security co-operation

There are parameters set out in the declaration for significant continued co-operation on the area of crime, security and counter-terrorism.

The document also commits both sides to tackling illegal immigration.

Financial services

Both sides have committed to completing equivalence assessments by the middle of June 2020.                                                                                                                                                                                            

Irish Independent

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