Phase 1 Agreement
The report sets out specific areas on which agreement was reached between the parties. Including on
- 29 March 2019 is the cut-off date for availing of protections to be set out in the withdrawal agreement.
- Access to social security, healthcare, employment and education.
- Grandfathering of professional qualifications.
The agreement also sets out guidelines on the role of the Court of Justice of the EU in protecting the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and this is will be a an indirect role.
This was always going to be one of the easier topics on which to reach agreement and it has not proved contentious since the conclusion of Phase 1
Phase 1 Agreement
The issue of the border is addressed in Article 49 of the report. It states that:-
The United Kingdom 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 United Kingdom’s intention is to achieve these objectives through the overall EU-UK relationship. Should this not be possible, the United Kingdom will propose specific solutions to address the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland. In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those 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 1998 Agreement.
The Report also provides that residents of Northern Ireland who are also Irish passport holders will have all the rights of EU citizens.
At an event in Chatham House in London on 18 December 2017, Stefaan De Rynck (Michel Barnier’s senior adviser) stated on the subject of the border paragraph 49 of the joint report was crucial and would be a distinct issue in the next phase of talks. The undertaking that in the absence of any other solution the default position would be the UK would ensure Northern Ireland’s full alignment with Internal Market and Custom’s Union rules in order to avoid a hard border on the Island of Ireland is welcome. It is hoped that there will be no weakening of this position.
It is also interesting that Article 56 states that the next phase of the talks will also address issues arising from Ireland’s geographic position including the transit of goods from Ireland through the UK.
Phase 1 Agreement
The EU and UK have reached and agreed methodology for the financial settlement.
No figure was provided but some experts have put it in the region of €45 billion. The UK Government have stated that no payments will be made until everything is agreed.
What happens next?
The date set for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is 29 March 2019, however in order to ensure that there is sufficient time for the Withdrawal Agreement to be ratified by the European Council and the European Parliament the EU’s plan is to conclude negotiations in October 2018. Given the pace of negotiations to date this is ambitious.
Talks about the transitional phase (expected to be two years) will commence in early 2018, with a plan to conclude these talks by March or April 2018. It is only then that talks about the future relationship (including a future trade deal) between the EU and the UK can start. There has been some mention of a political agreement on trade being reached to facilitate the finalisation of the Withdrawal Agreement. It is possible that talks on the details of a future trade deal will continue up to March 2019 and perhaps into the transitional phase. What is clear is that in the coming months we will finally have clarity on whether the UK wants a soft or hard Brexit and Irish businesses can begin making concrete plans for the future.