The 585-page draft withdrawal agreement between the UK Government and the EU sets out the proposed terms of Britain’s departure from the bloc while avoiding a sudden “cliff edge” break.
These are the main provisions:
The agreement protects the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and the rights of UK nationals at the end of the transition period following the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc.
They provide for individuals and their family members to continue to live, work or study as they currently do, while maintaining their rights to healthcare, pensions and other social security benefits.
The agreement seeks to ensure a smooth winding down of the current arrangements between the EU and the UK.
They range from police and judicial co-operation and data and information-sharing, to the protection of intellectual property rights and the UK’s withdrawal from Euratom, which regulates the nuclear industry and safeguards the transport of nuclear materials.
The agreement provides for a period of transition intended to avoid a cliff-edge break and allow businesses to prepare for the new arrangements.
During the transition – which will run initially until the end of 2020 – EU law will continue to apply in the UK and the UK will continue to participate in the customs union and the single market.
There is a one-off option for the UK to seek an extension of the transition if negotiations on the future relationship are still continuing.
The agreement establishes the mechanism by which the UK’s divorce settlement – estimated at £39 billion – is calculated.
It covers budget commitments made while the UK was a member state, and ensures no other member state will be required to pay more as a result of the UK’s withdrawal.
The agreement establishes the institutional mechanisms needed to implement and enforce its provisions.
They include the creation of a joint committee to deal with disputes between the two sides, with an option for either side to refer an issue to binding arbitration, while recognising the supremacy of the European Court of Justice in cases involving EU law.
Northern Ireland backstop
The backstop is intended to prevent the return of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland if there is no agreement in place on the future relationship.
It would create a single EU-UK customs territory with the UK continuing to follow EU tariffs and customs rules, avoiding the need for checks between the EU and UK – including between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
In addition however, Northern Ireland would be required to remain aligned with some EU single market rules, including legislation on goods, agricultural production, veterinary controls and state aid rules.
The agreement makes clear the arrangement is meant to be temporary, but sets no final end date. Ending the arrangement would be by mutual agreement by both sides.
UK sovereign base areas in Cyprus
The agreement protects the rights of Cypriots who live and work in the sovereign base areas following the UK’s withdrawal.
The agreement provides for close co-operation between the UK and Spain in relation to Gibraltar and the implementation of the provisions on citizens’ rights.