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Brexit transition terms agreed; Irish solution still pending

At a press conference earlier today, EU negotiator Michel Barnier and UK Brexit minister David Davis announced that the legal text on a 21 month transition period has now been agreed.  This moment marks a significant step in ensuring an orderly exit from the EU.
However there is still one big issue still to be sorted out: the status of the border between Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland.
In order to allow progress to continue despite the unresolved Irish question, a ‘backstop’ solution has been agreed.  In short, this requires Northern Ireland to remain in alignment with EU regulations until some other solution is found.
Some key points from the conference and agreement:

  • The transition period ends 31st December 2020.
  • The UK will remain bound by single market rules during the transition period, but will not be part of EU decision making.
  • EU nationals that arrive in the UK during this period will receive the same rights as those already resident.  The same will apply for UK nationals heading to EU countries.
  • The UK will be free to sign new trade deals in this time.
  • The EU will ask third-party countries to treat the UK as a full member during transition.
  • A joint UK-EU committee will be formed to resolve any differences that arise.
  • Formal negotiations on trade between the EU and UK will not begin until after the UK has left.
  • The transition deal is conditional on a final withdrawal agreement.

The last point suggests that if full withdrawal talks fail, the transition agreement is void and the UK will still face a ‘hard’ Brexit come March 2019.
The full draft agreement text can be found here.

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