Progress on Brexit to be welcomed
The joint report from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government on progress during phase one of Brexit highlights up front and centre the caveat that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. When the initial euphoria fades in relation to the progress that has at last been made, this caution should be borne in mind. That is not to say that the progress negotiated last week should not be warmly welcomed, not least because the agreement reached points in the direction of a soft Brexit which would represent the best outcome for Ireland, North and South.
Both the EU and UK have reached agreement in principle across the three areas under consideration in the first phase of negotiations: protecting the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU; the financial settlement; and, the framework for addressing the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland. Progress was also made in achieving agreement on aspects of other separation issues.
Under the agreement reached, the UK remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border. Any future arrangements must be compatible with these overarching requirements. The UK's intention is to achieve these objectives through the overall EU-UK relationship. Should this not be possible, the UK will propose specific solutions to address the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland. In the absence of agreed solutions, the UK will maintain "full alignment" with the rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the Good Friday Agreement.