High-level summary of key aspects of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement
This paper sets out some of the key commitments set out in the Draft Withdrawal Agreement (DWA). It is far too early to be able to offer an assessment of how the Treaty, if approved, will impact specifically on London-specific, so the points that follow are for the UK, though they are of particular importance for London.
What comes after the transition period is still undecided A set of joint aspirations are contained in the “Outline Political Declaration” agreed alongside the DWA, which describes the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the UK
However, it is important to note that the DWA says both parties will “use their best endeavours” to have a future trade agreement concluded six months before the end of the transition period in December 2020, but that if this is not the case the EU and the UK could “jointly extend the transition period” for an unspecified period.
Otherwise the backstop solution for Ireland and Northern Ireland aimed at preventing a hard border would come into force. The backstop, consisting of “a single customs territory between the Union and the United Kingdom”, will apply from the end of the transition period “unless and until … a subsequent agreement becomes applicable”.
The single customs territory would cover all goods except fishery products, the agreement says, and will “include the corresponding level playing field commitments and appropriate enforcement mechanisms to ensure fair competition between the EU27 and the UK”.
- The DWA establishes as transition period for the UK until the end of 2020.
- This establishes a “standstill” for the UK during which little will change for business or citizens, including EU nationals. The fears of a no-deal leading to food and medicine supply chain disruptions, for example, would be allayed.
- EU citizens and their families will continue to have the right to move to live and work in the UK (and vice versa) until the end of the transition period in December 2020.
- The proposed transition deal allows the UK to remain part of a number of hugely important policing and security arrangements; in particular the European Arrest Warrant
The economic impact
The DWA provides for a transition period for the UK until the end of 2020, which can be extended for an unspecified one-off period, set by mutual agreement. EU law will continue to apply in full.
This establishes a “standstill” for the UK while negotiations on a future UK-EU trade agreement begin. This in effect means that little will change for businesses or citizens, including EU free movement rules.
The aspirations as set out in the Outline Political Declaration include “comprehensive arrangements to create a free trade area between the EU and the UK to include zero tariffs, no fees or charges or quantitative restrictions across all good sectors”. While for financial services discussions will begin to agree a system of regulatory equivalence (which the EU extends to a number of countries it deems to have comparable regulatory regimes). However, this is likely to cover a limited range of market participation and with restricted access.
EU citizens in London
EU citizens and their families will continue to have the right to move to live and work in the UK (and vice versa) until the end of the transition period in December 2020.
Those who take up residence before the end of the transition period will be allowed to remain beyond transition and, if they stay for five years, will be allowed to remain permanently.
However, once the transition period is over, the draft agreement does allow the UK to require EU citizens who stay on to apply for a new residence document. The agreement says application forms for this residence status “shall be short, simple, user-friendly”. All this applies to UK citizens in EU countries too.
The draft agreement says that a country may ask people to “voluntarily” start applying for this residence status before the transition period ends.
Policing and security
The proposed transition deal allows the UK to remain part of a number of hugely important policing and security arrangements – for now. There is no certainty over what happens after 31 December 2020.
Under the proposed transition deal, the UK will still be allowed to:
- Use the European Arrest Warrant to send criminals to face trial in the EU – and bring suspects to justice in the UK
- Use EU databases to check for alerts for missing people, arrest alerts and look for matches to DNA, fingerprints and vehicle number plates. These systems are used more than a million times a day by British police
- Continue to take part in a large number of ongoing cross-border policing operations which are co-ordinated by the EU’s policing agency, Europol, where the UK is one of the leading partners
- Check quickly for the criminal records of any foreign suspects arrested in the UK
According to BBC reporting, there is, however, some ambiguity over whether the European Arrest Warrant extradition system will work as smoothly as it does presently.
Under a special caveat (Article 185), nations could tell the UK that they can no longer send suspects to face trial, because their own constitution may not allow them to do so. Germany has an explicit ban on sending its citizens to face trial outside the EU.
And once transition ends, so does the access to data. The deal includes an explicit article that will lock the UK out of all EU databases and systems at the end of 2020.
The UK will be able to temporarily continue to request access to systems that will provide intelligence on suspects – but largely only in relation to investigations that are already under way.
Universities in the UK have been worried about losing access to EU research funding – worth about €100bn (£87bn) in the next round.
Existing funding up to 2020 is assured, there is still no detail on how the UK might take part in future EU research partnerships.