EU, Britain agree on post-Brexit ties

The deal hangs on summit outcome, British parliament vote

Photo: EPA British PM Theresa May agreed the draft declaration text at a meting last Wednesday with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels.

The EU and the UK agreed in principle to a text setting out their future relationship after Britain leaves the Union next March, news wires reported. The text, however, still needs to be endorsed by EU leaders at a summit on 25 November, Council President Donald Tusk said last Thursday. The text was discussed and agreed last Wednesday by British PM Theresa May and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels.

According to the draft declaration agreed by the UK and the Commission, the “parties envisage having a trading relationship on goods that is as close as possible, with a view to facilitating the ease of legitimate trade.” “The Commission president has informed me that it has been agreed at negotiators' level and agreed in principle at political level, subject to the endorsement of the leaders,” Tusk said.

British PM failed to close all the gaps with the EU side in talks in Brussels last Wednesday and said she would return on Saturday, hoping a last-minute intervention will be enough to push the accord over the line. Raising the stakes, German diplomats told their EU colleagues in Brussels that Chancellor Angela Merkel would not come to Brussels on Sunday for any further negotiations, meaning a text must be ready beforehand.

The diplomats were trying last week to finish a divorce deal and the accompanying outline of their future relationship so that EU leaders can rubber-stamp them at a summit on Sunday. The draft declaration was to be screened by Member States envoys at a meeting on Thursday. Both the EU and Britain “should aim to deliver a level of liberalisation in trade in services well beyond the parties' WTO commitments,” according to the draft declaration. The transition period, which Britain and the EU hope will begin once Britain leaves the EU on 29 March, can be extended “for up to one or two years,” according to the draft declaration.

The draft declaration states that the EU and UK aim for “ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership across trade and economic cooperation, law enforcement and criminal justice, foreign policy, security... based on a balance of rights and obligations.” Furthermore, they “agree to develop an ambitious, wide-ranging and balanced economic partnership, encompassing a free trade area as well as wider sectoral cooperation underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

According to the document, future relations would respect “the integrity of the Union's Single Market and the Customs Union as well as the United Kingdom's internal market, and recognize the development of an independent trade policy by the UK beyond this economic partnership.” The EU and UK will retain their autonomy and the ability to regulate economic activity.

The EU and UK envisage “a trading relationship on goods that is as close as possible” and “comprehensive arrangements that will create a free trade area, combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing.” Both sides expect “no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors, with ambitious customs arrangements that build and improve on the single customs territory provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement, which obviates the need for checks on rules of origin.”

As far as customs was concerned both parties want an ambitious arrangement envisaging making use of all available facilitative means and technologies, and are ready to consider “mutual recognition of trusted traders' programmes, administrative cooperation in customs matters and mutual assistance, including for the recovery of claims related to taxes and duties.”

Still Northern Ireland remains a sticking point with the EU and the UK expressing their determination to replace the backstop solution by a subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.

According to German Chancellor Angela Merkel , the EU has done almost all it can to reach a satisfactory agreement on Britain's exit, and it is Britain where further discussions are most needed on the matter. Addressing a congress of the German employers' association BDA in Berlin, she pointed out that she would do everything needed to secure an orderly Brexit, since a chaotic one would overshadow future ties.

More on this subject: Brexit

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