Tuesday

21st Aug 2018

'Decisive step' in Brexit ahead of EU summit

  • EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in front of the updated draft Brexit deal, with the agreed parts in green (Photo: European Commission)

The EU and the UK made "decisive steps" on Monday (19 March) towards a Brexit agreement that should help launch the work for a future trade agreement when EU leaders meet this week, while leaving crucial issues still unsolved.

"Over the last few days we've done an essential part of the road towards an orderly withdrawal," EU negotiator Michel Barnier said in a press conference, showing the 130-page latest version of the Brexit deal with all agreed parts in green.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

But "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed," he warned, insisting that "a lot of work needs to be done".

The two sides reached a "total agreement" on how to put into legal terms the political agreement reached in December on two of Brexit's three main issues, citizens' rights and the financial settlement.

The UK has accepted that EU citizens arriving in the country after Brexit will after all "obtain a new status of residence from the start of the transition period" that will follow Brexit itself in March 2019, Barnier explained.

This will give them "immediate certainty on their rights after the transition" - which will end on 31 December 2020 - the French politician said.

Separately, the agreement on the financial settlement will give certainty to those who run or benefit from EU projects, Barnier insisted.
 Under the deal, the UK could pay over €37bn until 2064, according to figures released last week by the UK's Office for Budget Responsibility.

The EU and the UK also agreed on the terms and length of the transition period - from the entry into force of the withdrawal agreement until 31 December 2020.


During that time, Barnier confirmed, the UK "will not participate in decision-making process". It will "keep all the advantages and benefits of the single market, custom union and EU policies" while it will have to "respect the rules".

The 21-month period is "near enough to two years we asked for," UK Brexit secretary David Davis said.


Davis argued that during that time, the UK will be "able to make its voice heard" and "ensure [its] interests are protected."

"The deal we have struck today, on top of that agreed in December, should give us confidence that a good deal for the United Kingdom and the European Union is closer than ever before," Davis said.

The most divisive issue, the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, however remains in 'white' in the updated draft Brexit deal colour scheme.

"We must have a workable and practical solution to avoid a hard border and protect North-South cooperation," Barnier said, reiterating the EU line.

He said that the EU and the UK agreed to include in the withdrawal agreement a protocol "on how the Irish issues will be dealt with."

In any case, he insisted, a so-called backstop solution "must form part of the legal text".

"The backstop will apply unless and until another solution is found," he said, adding that the EU was "ready to look at all options which allow us to meet our objectives in constructive way."

The backstop, which according to the political agreement reached in December, would maintain a "full alignment" of Northern Ireland with the EU single market - something the UK government has said it would not accept.

"It remains our intention to achieve a partnership that is so close as to not require specific measures," Davis said on Monday, insisting on a solution "that is acceptable to both sides​."

"We are really going forward," an EU source said, however, referring to green parts in the text, in particular on Ireland's common travel areas and cross-border cooperation.

The EU and the UK still have to continue discussions on several issues, including data protection, the circulation of products, as well as so-called governance issues - such as the role of the ECJ and Britain's participation in Euratom, Europol and Eurojust.

Both Barnier, who wants to wrap up the process in October and maintain EU unity behind him, as well as the UK, whose main goal is to negotiate a trade deal, had an interest in making progress ahead this week's EU summit.

"It's now up to the member states to assess this progress in order to adopt guidelines which will enable us to start in parallel to discuss with the UK on a framework for a future relationship," Barnier said.

The issue will be on EU leaders' agenda on Friday morning, and one question will be whether they think that enough progress has been made on Ireland.

"Ireland first," European Council president Donald Tusk warned earlier this month. "Let's see what the Irish say," the EU official noted on Monday.

"We need to get on with this now," Davis said about the trade talks, adding that he wanted the future deal to be the "most comprehensive and most effective ever".



It will be "considerable work," Barnier retorted, in another show of the two men's - and the two sides - different approach to what remains to be done.

UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit

Britain wants to negotiate with Brussels the end date of the Brexit transition period - without saying what their preferred end date would be. The UK's position paper disagrees with the EU on other key points too.

Britain wants uniquely deep deal with EU

The UK prime minister's third speech on Brexit was the clearest yet on what she wants after Brexit, but still lacked new ideas on resolving some differences, especially on Northern Ireland.

May promotes Brexit on 'first-anniversary' UK tour

The British prime minister vowed to "deliver a Brexit that unites" the country, while 44 percent of the public thinks her policy is a "total shambles" but that the decision to leave the EU should be respected.

News in Brief

  1. EU Commission: efforts 'ongoing' over Italian migrant ship
  2. Italy allows boat with migrants to dock
  3. France's Total pulls out of Iran due to US sanctions
  4. Trump accuses EU and China of currency manipulation
  5. Swedish conservatives regret unsuccessful integration policies
  6. Record high measles cases hit Europe
  7. Swedish politician declares war on media
  8. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. UK sanctions appeal risks highlighting EU divisions
  2. Wind delays launch of European wind-mapping satellite
  3. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  4. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  5. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  6. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  7. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  8. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us