Brexit withdrawal agreement
|Type||Treaty setting out terms of withdrawal|
|Context||UK withdrawal from the EU (Brexit)|
October 2019 (revision)
|Condition||Ratification by the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, and the Parliament of the United Kingdom.|
|Depositary||Secretary General of the Council of the European Union|
|Languages||The 28 EU languages|
|Part of a series of articles on|
(withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union)
United Kingdom portal|
European Union portal
|Part of a series of articles on the|
United Kingdom portal|
European Union portal
The Brexit withdrawal agreement (officially: The draft Agreement on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union) is an (as of 21 October 2019[update]) unratified treaty between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK), setting the terms of the withdrawal of the latter from the former (Brexit). The original withdrawal agreement was rejected by the House of Commons on three occasions, leading to the resignation of Theresa May from the premiership of the UK. It was subsequently renegotiated by Boris Johnson, with a new version published on 17 October 2019.
It covers such matters as money, citizens' rights, border arrangements and dispute resolution. It also contains a transition period and an outline of the future relationship between the UK and the EU. Published on 14 November 2018, it was a result of the Brexit negotiations. The agreement was endorsed by the leaders of the 27 remaining EU countries and the UK Government led by Prime Minister Theresa May, but faced opposition in the UK parliament, whose approval was necessary for ratification. (Ratification by the European Parliament is also required but (as of September 2019[update]) remains to be sought.) On 15 January 2019, the House of Commons rejected the withdrawal agreement by a vote of 432 to 202. The Commons rejected the Agreement again on 12 March 2019, on a vote of 391 to 242, and rejected a third time of 29 March 2019 by 344 votes to 286. On 22 October 2019 the revised withdrawal agreement negotiated by Boris Johnson's government cleared the first stage in Parliament, but Johnson paused the legislative process when the accelerated programme for approval failed to achieve the necessary support, and announced his intention to call a general election.
The negotiated and from both EU and UK government agreed withdrawal agreement, if passed by the House of Commons, provides for a transition period after leaving the EU until 31. December 2020, in which the UK would temporarily effectively stay in the single market, in order to ensure frictionless trade until a long-term relationship is agreed. However, the latter remains subject of negotiations yet to come. If no such agreement is reached by that date and the transition period is not extended, a no-deal Brexit would remain the default outcome in 2021.
Closely connected to the withdrawal agreement is a non-binding political declaration on the future EU-UK relationship.
- 1 Background
- 2 Content (2018 version)
- 2.1 Common provisions
- 2.2 Citizens' rights: general provisions
- 2.3 Rights and obligations
- 2.4 Coordination of social security systems
- 2.5 Goods placed on the market
- 2.6 Ongoing customs procedures
- 2.7 Ongoing value added tax and excise duty matters
- 2.8 Annexes
- 3 Revisions in 2019
- 4 Reception
- 5 UK Parliament votes
- 6 Political declaration of future relationship
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
2015 United Kingdom general election and 2016 Brexit referendum
Content (2018 version)
The withdrawal agreement, which runs to 599 pages, covers the following main areas:
- Money, particularly the division of assets and liabilities, and payment of any debt outstanding
- Citizens rights, both of UK citizens in EU countries and vice-versa
- Border arrangements and customs, particularly along the border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland
- The law, and the mechanisms for resolving disputes, currently vested with the European Court of Justice
The agreement also sets up a transitional period, which lasts until 31 December 2020 and can be extended once by mutual consent. During the transitional period, the UK will remain a member of the European Economic Area, the single market, and the customs union, EU laws will continue to apply to the UK, and the UK will continue to pay into the EU budget. However, the UK will not be represented in the decision-making bodies of the EU. The transition period will give businesses time to adjust to the new situation and time for the British and EU governments to negotiate a new trade deal between the EU and UK.
On the Irish border question, there is a Northern Ireland Protocol (the "Backstop") appended to the agreement which sets a fall-back position that will only come into force should effective alternative arrangements fail to be demonstrated before the end of the transition period. If this happens, the UK will shadow the EU's Common external tariff and Northern Ireland will keep in aspects of the Single Market, until such a demonstration is achieved. Neither party can unilaterally withdraw from this customs union. The goal of this backstop agreement is to avoid a "hard" border in Ireland, where customs checks are necessary.
The governance will be through a Joint Committee with representatives of both the European Union and the British government. There will be a number of specialised committees reporting to the Joint Committee.
The withdrawal agreement also includes provisions for the UK to leave the Convention Defining the Statute of the European Schools, with the UK bound by the Convention and the accompanying regulations on Accredited European Schools until the end of the last academic year of the transition period, i.e. the end of the spring semester of 2020-2021.
The more important elements of the draft agreement are these:
The Agreement assists the arrangements of withdrawing the UK from the European Union and Euratom (Art. 1), provides a clear definition for the territorial scope of the United Kingdom (Art. 3), and assures the legal liability of the Agreement (Art. 4). Additionally, it states that by the end of the transition period, the UK shall be denied access to "any network, any information system and any database established on the basis of Union law" (Art. 8).
Citizens' rights: general provisions
The Agreement defines and provides the personal scope of citizens, family members, frontier workers, host states, and nationals. Article 11 deals with continuity of residence and Article 12 discusses non-discrimination (i.e., it would be prohibited to discriminate on grounds of nationality).
Rights and obligations
UK nationals and Union citizens, family members that are UK nationals or Union citizens and family members that are neither of those two shall maintain the right to reside in the host State (Art. 13). The host State may not limit or condition the persons for obtaining, retaining or losing residence rights (Art. 13). Persons with valid documentation[clarification needed] would not require entry and exit visas or equal formalities and would be permitted to leave or enter the host state without complications (Art. 14). In case the host State demands "family members who join the Union citizen or United Kingdom national after the end of the transition period to have an entry visa", the host State is required to grant necessary visas through an accelerated process in appropriate facilities free of charge (Art. 14). The Agreement further deals with the issuance of permanent residence permits during and after the transition period, as well as its restrictions. Moreover, it clarifies the rights of workers and self-employed individuals, and provides recognition and identification of professional qualifications.
This title discusses special cases, administrative cooperation, legal adaptations and development of Union laws.
Goods placed on the market
The Agreement defines the goods, services and the processes connected to them. It claims that any good or service that was lawfully placed in the market prior to the withdrawal from the Union may be further made available to the consumers in the UK or the Union States (Art. 40 & 41).
Ongoing customs procedures
This title addresses the custom procedures of goods moving from the customs territory of the UK to the customs territory of the Union and vice versa (Art. 47). The processes that start before the end of the transition period "shall be treated as an intra-Union movement regarding importation and exportation licencing requirements in Union law". The Agreement also addresses the ending of temporary storage or customs procedures (Art. 49).
Ongoing value added tax and excise duty matters
The VAT applies to goods that are exchanged between the Union and the UK. By way of derogation from previous Articles, the Title permits access to information systems that are necessary for the application or processing of the VAT (Art. 51).
There are ten annexes to the draft. The first is a protocol to maintain an open border between the EU and the UK on the island of Ireland (generally known as the 'Irish backstop'). The second covers the arrangements for a common customs territory to operate between the EU and the UK, until a technical solution can be found that delivers both an open border and independent customs policies. The third covers operations of the joint customs territory. The fourth covers 'good governance in the area of taxation, environmental protection, labour and social standards, state aid, competition, and state-owned undertakings. The fifth to eighth cover relevant provisions in EU law. The ninth and tenth details procedures arising from main sections of the draft.
Northern Ireland protocol (the Backstop)
The Northern Ireland Protocol, known familiarly as the "Irish backstop", is the annex that describes the provisions to prevent a hard border in Ireland after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. The Protocol includes a safety-net provision to handle the circumstances where satisfactory alternative arrangements remain to come into operation at the end of the transition period. This aspect of the agreement is more fully described in its own article.
Revisions in 2019
The changes included the removal of the protocol on Ireland/ Northern Ireland, or "backstop", in favour of continued regulatory alignment on the island of Ireland. There were also amendments relating to the movement of goods and the UK customs territory. Northern Ireland is to be de jure in the UK customs territory but de facto in a customs union with the European Union Customs Union and thus in the European Single Market in respect of the free movement of goods, for at least four years after the end of the transition period (and for a further four years if the Northern Ireland Assembly so decides by simple majority, or eight years if the decision is by cross-community vote).
The 2019 revisions also adjusted elements of the political declaration, replacing the word "adequate" with "appropriate" in regard to labour standards. According to Sam Lowe, trade fellow at the Centre for European Reform, the change excludes labour standards from dispute settlement mechanisms.
The reception of the agreement in the House of Commons ranged from cool to hostile and the vote was delayed more than a month. Prime Minister May won a no confidence motion in her own party, but the EU refused to accept any further changes.
UK government resignations
On 15 November 2018, the day after the agreement was presented and received backing from the cabinet of the UK government, several members of the government resigned, including Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.
UK Parliament votes
On 15 January 2019, the House of Commons voted down the Brexit withdrawal agreement by 230 votes, the largest vote against the United Kingdom government in history. The May government survived a confidence vote the following day. On 12 March 2019, the Commons voted down the agreement a second time by 149 votes, the fourth-largest defeat of the government in the history of the Commons. A third vote on the Brexit withdrawal agreement, widely expected to be held on 19 March 2019, was refused by the Speaker of the House of Commons on 18 March 2019 on the basis of a parliamentary convention dating from 2 April 1604 that prevents UK governments from forcing the Commons to repeatedly vote on an issue that the Commons has already voted upon. A cut-down version of the withdrawal agreement, where the attached political declaration had been removed, passed the speaker's test for 'substantial change', so a third vote was held on 29 March 2019, but was voted down by 58 votes.
On 22 October 2019, the House of Commons agreed by 329 votes to 299 to give the revised withdrawal agreement negotiated by Boris Johnson's government a second reading, but when the accelerated timetable which he proposed failed to gain the necessary parliamentary support, Johnson announced that the legislation would be paused.
Political declaration of future relationship
The Declaration on Future European Union–United Kingdom Relations, also referred to as the Political Declaration, is a non-binding declaration that was negotiated and signed along with the binding and more comprehensive Withdrawal Agreement in connection with the planned withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU), colloquially known as Brexit.
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