EU and UK agree draft Brexit transition deal but work remains to be done on border issue
The UK’s Brexit Secretary David Davis told a press conference that it remains his government’s objective to “uphold the Good Friday Agreement in its entirety”
NORTHERN Ireland will remain aligned to EU regulations after Brexit “unless and until” the UK comes up with a better solution for retaining an open border.
A major breakthrough on Brexit has been achieved today with the EU and UK now both working off the same draft text for a withdrawal agreement.
The move which is likely to allow negotiations move forward to dealing with ‘future trade’ has been described by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier as a “decisive step”.
European leaders are due to meet in Brussels on Friday when they formally clear the way for the talks to progress onto the next stage.
It is understood that Irish negotiations are pleased without the outcome of talks between Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Mr Barnier today.
At a press conference, Mr Barnier indicated the Irish question remains high on the agenda, saying it forms a “distinct” element “within the framework” of a Brexit deal.
He said a deal reached in December still stands, meaning that Northern Ireland will remain closely aligned to EU rules in the wake of Brexit if an overall deal is not reached.
“The backstop will apply unless and until another solution is found,” he said.
A new introductory section, agreed by EU and UK teams today, states that legally operative version of the “backstop” solution for the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland should be agreed as part of the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement.
And in a further nod to the Irish border, draft guidelines for upcoming negotiations to proceed to European Council on Friday will note that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".
Mr Barnier said that there had been "complete agreement" on future citizens' rights and the financial settlement as well agreement on a transition period after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.
"We agreed that British citizens and European citizens of the 27 who arrive during that transition period will receive the same rights and guarantees as those who arrived before the day of Brexit," he said.
The UK’s Brexit Secretary David Davis told a press conference that it remains his government’s objective to “uphold the Good Friday Agreement in its entirety”.
“It remains our intention to a partnership that is so close, so as not to require a special relationship for Northern Ireland,” he said.
“So as yet no agreement on the right operational approach, we know what we need to do.”
While the UK will officially leave the EU in March next year, it was also agreed today that a ‘transition period’ will run until December 31, 2020.
During that period the UK will continue to abide by many EU rules, although it will have no influence over rule-making.
“At a joint press conference with Brexit Secretary David Davis, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said a decisive step had been taken.
He said: "What we are presenting to you today, here with David, is a legal text.
"A joint legal text which constitutes in my mind a decisive step because we were able this morning to agree, and after all those days and nights of hard work, on a large part of what will make up an international agreement for the ordered withdrawal of the United Kingdom.
"A decisive step remains a step, we are not at the end of the road and there is a lot of work still to be done on important subjects including Ireland and Northern Ireland."
Interestingly, the UK and EU have agreed a color-coded system for the withdrawal agreement to flag what level of progress has been made on individual items. Mr Barnier insisted there was no significance in the colours chosen: Green, White and Yellow.
Green means the element has been agreed at negotiator level. Yellow means the objective has been agreed but the detail is still being worked on. And White means an items has been proposed by the EU and is under negotiation.
The Irish protocol is a mix at the moment of Green, Yellow & White.