Brexit Negotiations: Phase 1 complete

Today, the Prime Minister announced that the UK has reached agreement with the European Commission on the three key issues that have been discussed as part of phase 1 of the negotiation process. These three issues comprise EU and UK citizens' rights, the Northern Ireland border, and the financial settlement.

On the basis of this agreement, the EU Commission has recommended that the negotiations have made sufficient progress and that phase 2 of the process can begin, namely to discuss the UK's future partnership with the EU including on future trade and security issues, and an implementation period following the exit date. Donald Tusk has further recommended that the December EU Council meeting should allow the next stage of negotiations to proceed and that there should be quick progress on agreeing an implementation period.

Full details of the agreement can be read in the attached document at the bottom of the web page but I thought it would be helpful to summarise the key announcements here.

Citizens' Rights

As the Prime Minister outlined in her Florence Speech, the rights of EU citizens here in the UK will be upheld by writing them into UK law, instead of reference to EU law enforced by the EU institutions, as the EU had argued for. This will be done through the Withdrawal Agreement & Implementation Bill which the Government will introduce to Parliament after we have completed negotiations on the agreement itself.

That law will be determined by UK courts, and the EU will not be able to override them by making them refer questions to the European Court of Justice. Our courts will pay due regard to EU case law as agreed at the point of exit to interpret that law as need be.

For a period of 8 years, UK courts will be able to choose to ask the ECJ for a legal view on a point of law that has not arisen before. But the decision on whether to refer to the ECJ will be for our courts and our courts alone and, having received the ECJ’s legal view, our courts will determine the case. In practical terms, the government expects this might occur for two or three cases a year. This ability will be strictly confined to those citizens’ rights as exercised under the withdrawal agreement by EU citizens settled here before we leave the EU and will not extend in any way beyond that.

The Withdrawal Agreement will enable families who have built their lives together in the EU or the UK to stay together. It will allow the spouses, children and elderly parents of those protected by the agreement, who live in a different country when the UK leaves the EU, to reunite as a family at any time in the future.

The government have agreed with the European Commission that we will introduce a new settled status scheme under UK law for EU citizens and their family members, covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. The scheme will provide a transparent, smooth and streamlined process, the criteria for which will be set out in the Withdrawal Agreement, but it will incorporate appropriate criminality checks. The Prime Minister also discussed the issue of the ‘specified cut-off date’ carefully with Member States and citizens’ groups in the UK. On this basis the government have concluded that the cut-off date will be the date of our withdrawal to provide the greatest possible legal and practical certainty for those covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.

This agreement not only provides certainty about residence, but also healthcare, pensions and other benefits. It will mean that EU citizens who have paid into the UK system – and UK nationals who have paid into the system of an EU Member State – can benefit from what they have put in and continue to benefit from existing coordination rules for future contributions. Reciprocal healthcare rights will be protected, meaning those covered by the agreement will be able to continue to receive healthcare as they do now. And in relation to European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs), we have agreed to protect the rights of individuals who are in a cross-border situation at the point of our withdrawal and entitled to a UK EHIC. This includes, for example, tourists for the duration of their stay, students for the duration of their course and UK nationals resident in another Member State. We will discuss wider use of EHICs in the next phase of the negotiations.

The agreement also includes reciprocal rules to protect existing decisions to recognise professional qualifications, for example for doctors and architects.

Financial obligations

The Government has said that the UK will honour its financial obligations to the EU. We have agreed a fair settlement of commitments we have made while a member of the EU, in the spirit of our future partnership. It depends upon a broader agreement being reached – as I have said, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed – so if there is no agreement then our offer also falls away.

The UK and the European Commission have agreed the scope and assessed what falls within it, and based on that assessment, we expect the final number to come in significantly below many of the initial projections. The agreement also states that the rebate will be applied to the settlement, and that our capital in the European Investment Bank will be returned decades earlier than the EU had originally proposed.

As we leave, and we pay off our commitments, this means there will be significant sums to spend on our priorities, including the NHS, which would otherwise have gone to the EU.

Northern Ireland

The joint report states that the terms of the withdrawal agreement must be fully consistent with the Belfast Agreement’s provisions on Northern Ireland’s constitutional status and the principle of consent.

The Common Travel Area with Ireland which has been in operation since the 1920s will be maintained. We and the EU have pledged that there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

If we do not achieve either of those outcomes, we will maintain full alignment – that is sharing the same policy goals even if we achieve them by different means – with those rules which support north-south cooperation under the terms of the 1998 Belfast Agreement. We will do this either at a UK-wide level or at a Northern Ireland-only level if there is cross-community consent for that (regulatory differences between Great Britain and Northern Ireland already exist in specific areas, such as those to control disease outbreaks, or relating to waterways or electricity networks). In either event, we will protect Northern Ireland’s place in the internal market of the United Kingdom with full, unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses.

 

Attachments

Attachment Size
UK and EI Joint Agreement - Phase 1 Withdrawal Negotiations 412.68 KB
Key Commitments to Northern Ireland 152.3 KB
Lancaster House Speech Objectives 466.47 KB
Letter from the PM on Joint Agreement 254.13 KB
EU Concessions 193.06 KB