By Mirror |
October 22nd 2019 at 11:30:00 GMT +0300
The deal is incredibly complicated but any opposition will boil down to a few main points.
Boris Johnson (pictured) has finally agreed a Brexit deal with the EU.
Now he is grappling with MPs over whether to approve it or whether to delay.
The Prime Minister said the deal was "excellent" and "means the UK leaves whole and entire on October 31" as 27 EU leaders prepared to back it.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker added he was happy about the deal - even if he was sad about Brexit.
But the DUP and Labour refused to support it, saying it was a betrayal on customs rules and workers' rights.
So what does the Withdrawal Agreement actually say and what are the main sticking points?
Here's what you need to know.
What has been agreed?
The deal is based on a new Brexit plan Boris Johnson sent the EU two weeks ago to replace Theresa May's 585-page Withdrawal Agreement.
The 64-page list of additions to the original deal would keep a transition period, which continues EU rules in Britain and payments to Brussels, up to 31 December 2020.
And it continues the £39billion divorce bill of payments over a long period to the EU.
But it scraps the Irish backstop, an insurance policy designed at preventing a hard border between Northern Ireland the Republic from 1 January 2021.
In the backstop's place would effectively be 'two borders' in a hybrid system:
Northern Ireland and Britain would share a customs territory - technically forcing customs checks on goods crossing the 310-mile border with the Republic.
But in practice, to avoid checks at the border, the checks will instead happen when goods reach Northern Ireland on the island of Ireland.
This would effectively put the customs checks across the Irish Sea - more of this below.
Northern Ireland and the Republic would share some EU single market rules - forcing checks on manufactured and agricultural products crossing the Irish Sea.
What are the main points?
The deal is incredibly complicated but any opposition will boil down to a few main points. Here are the initial details you need to know about the Brexit deal.
Northern Ireland will stay in the UK customs territory - putting goods north of the 310-mile border under different customs rules to the Republic of Ireland.
A new set of UK tariffs will be paid on goods imported to the UK from the EU. But no customs duties will be paid on goods passing between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and vice versa.
That means if the UK strikes a trade deal, say with the US, US goods can be imported into Northern Ireland just as they are onto the British mainland.
But there's a vital exception - and here's where it gets complicated.
EU customs rules will apply to goods entering Northern Ireland that are deemed "at risk" of moving into the EU at a later date.
And because everyone has promised no customs checks on the Irish border, they will be done in ports when goods arrive at "ports of entry" in Northern Ireland.
Critics say this in fact amounts to a customs border down the Irish Sea.
A set of rules will be drawn up by a "joint committee" of EU and UK officials before December 2020 to decide how a product is deemed "at risk". Factors will include the nature and value of the goods, the nature of movement and the final destination.
This will apply to goods whether they're in their original form or not. So if sugar is imported to Belfast, put in a soft drink, then exported to the EU, EU rules apply.
No EU tariffs would be paid on personal goods carried by travellers across the Irish border - or on exempted goods for immediate consumption. These would include the hauls from some fishing boats.
Single market rules
Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a limited set of EU single market rules - to avoid checks on goods crossing the 310-mile Irish border.
These are: legislation on goods, sanitary rules for veterinary controls (“SPS rules”), rules on agricultural production/marketing, VAT and excise in respect of goods, and state aid rules.
This means Northern Ireland will have some different rules to Britain.
And there will be single market "checks and controls" on the relevant goods when they pass between Northern Ireland (EU rules) and mainland Britain (UK rules).
The EU says there will be "border inspection posts" to make sure the sanitary and phyto-sanitary controls are carried out correctly.
Politicians in Northern Ireland will get a veto on this system - but it's controversial. Read more below...
The Northern Ireland Assembly - known as Stormont - will get a vote every four years on whether to let EU law continue in Northern Ireland.
The first four-year period begins on 1 January 2021, so the first vote by Stormont will be in late 2024 - in time for it to come into effect on 1 January 2025.
If Stormont backs EU rules by a simple (50%) majority, the system will continue for four years before another vote.
If Stormont backs EU rules by 60% or more - with a 'double lock' of 40% of unionists and 40% of nationalists - it will continue for eight years before another vote.
If Stormont rejects EU rules by a simple majority, they will lapse after two years.
This sets up a massive showdown with the DUP because it means EU rules could rule over Northern Ireland despite one side - e.g. unionists - opposing them.
The deal stops short of Labour's demands to safeguard workers' rights by putting the issues into the 'Political Declaration'.
This means it is not as legally binding and would only be dealt with at a later date.
It also stops short of Theresa May's previous pledge to keep workers' rights aligned in the future with laws that came out of the EU.
Labour's Keir Starmer said the deal "gives Johnson licence to slash workers’ rights, environmental standards, and consumer protections."
He added: "The level playing field commitments are significantly weaker: no longer building on the measures in the old Withdrawal Agreement, which provided for dynamic alignment in certain areas.
"Instead, the level playing field provisions only last until the end of transition with a warning shot from the EU about the impact this will have on (reduced) access to EU markets."
What about the rest?
Many of the other details are the same as in the original 585-page Withdrawal Agreement that Theresa May agreed in November 2018.
The previously agreed settlement on citizens' rights after Brexit and Britain's divorce bill stay as they were.
That also goes for a transition period of 14 months until the end of 2020, which can be extended by one year or two years.
In the long term, both sides would aim for an "ambitious free-trade agreement" after Brexit with no tariffs and unlimited quotas. It comes together with a statement that sides will uphold high standards on environment, climate, workers' rights and other rules.
There are some other less prominent aspects below.
No10 sources were keen to insist that "Britain is out of the European court."
But "Britain" does not necessarily include Northern Ireland - and the document suggests there will still be some European court involvement for the UK.
The exact nature of such involvement is unclear but it says: "The UK may participate in the proceedings before the Court of Justice of the EU in the same way as a member state."
Continued access to EU programmes
Britain and the EU will work together to see that the UK can continue to stay part of popular EU programmes like the Erasmus student exchange and Euratom's research programme.
But Britain's membership of those schemes will be "subject to conditions" set by the EU and subject to "fair and appropriate financial contribution" - meaning Britain will stay pay into certain EU programmes.
Free trade and regulation
Both parties have agreed to strike a free trade deal which will "combine deep regulatory and customs co-operation".
In practice, this means that while Britain and the EU will be technically free to set their own rules, both parties recognise that in key areas - including the regulation of medicines, agricultural products and technical definitions - they will likely strike a deal to effectively mirror one another's regulations.
On key areas such as financial services and fishing, the document says the EU and UK will try and strike deals by July 2020.
But British fisherman who have long argued that the EU is strangling their industry will find the Political Declaration light on detail - with the document saying that Britain and the EU will establish a "new agreement on...access to waters and quote shares".
The EU and UK will both attempt to recognise on another's financial services regulations as "equivalent" - but expect fierce negotiations as both Germany and France see profits to be made in companies relocating after Brexit.
In a blow to many people who believed Brexit would be a chance for the UK to end the practice of EU companies bidding to run UK public services, the Political Declaration declares that any future agreement should provide for "mutual opportunities" in one another public procurement markets.
Level playing field
As part of the Political Declaration, the EU and UK have agreed to a level of cooperation on regulations, workers' rights and market rules which might cheer Labour MPs looking for an opportunity to support the bill.
But promises that any arrangement will "prevent distortions of trade and unfair competitive advantages" will come as bad news to Tories who believe Britain's economic success after Brexit comes from aggressively cutting regulation to undercut the EU and attract global business.