Chicago: It took 16 months to negotiate between the London government and Brussels, and is still a work in progress.
As far as both sides are concerned, however, the 585-page document is considered to be a “stable text. Here are key points:
The Irish border
The border between the British-governed province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is the only land frontier affected by Brexit. The EU27 and the European Commission have been determined that it remain open, free of customs of security checks. To do that, UK Prime Minister Theresa May provided a guarantee — the “backstop” — to keep the province, along with England, Scotland and Wales aligned with the EU. The agreement says that both London and Brussels will “use their best endeavours” to have a future trade agreement completed in six months, but critics say that means that Northern Ireland will be treated differently then, and they want to ensure the UK can decide when to walk away from the backstop.
The text says that the London government will maintain and generally keep aligned with the EU’s social and environmental rules. By agreeing to these “non-regression” clauses, in effect the UK will abide by and acknowledge the rulings of the European Court of Justice and previous — and new — programmes and legislation that the EU enacts. For Brexiteers, they say this means the UK is still under the European Central Bank’s jurisdiction, which goes against the key principle of Britain “taking back control” of its affairs after March 29.
The document says that both sides will build upon “the single customs territory provided for in the agreement.” In effect, the deal maintains the status quo on the free movement of goods, services and people that exists now, and that any future trade deal between Britain and Brussels will need to maintain this arrangement. For Brexiteers, this means London is too closely aligned with Brussels, and it will limit the UK’s ability to reach new deals with other nations of trade blocs.
Deciding on the future
Both sides agreed that there will be five-person panel to adjudicate and arbitrate on any questions arising from the agreement. For Brexiteers, they say this clause is a betrayal, preventing the UK from controlling its own affairs after the March 29 deadline.