What's next for Brexit?: The draft deal explained
The details of the first draft of the deal between the European Union and the United Kingdom emerged this week.
The deal has come about more than two years since the UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016.
Here's everything you need to know about the deal and the next steps for Britain's departure from the EU.
What is in the withdrawal text?
The 585-page document sets out the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU and covers four main areas:
- A transition period beginning on March 29, 2019. This would see the UK follow all the EU’s rules for 21 months, giving both sides more time to reach a deal on trade
- The so-called divorce bill which stands at £39 billion. This is how much the UK will pay the EU to cover its outstanding liabilities.
- The rights of EU citizens living in the UK as well as the rights of British citizens living in the EU.
- The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
This last issue has been the major sticking point in the negotiations. Both sides agree the border needs to be “frictionless” to avoid the need for physical checks, fearing such a prospect could risk the peace process.
But they’ve struggled to agree on how this will work in practice.
In the draft text, British Brexit negotiators have agreed to a highly contentious “backstop” position with Brussels, which would be activated if the UK and the EU fail to reach an agreement on trade during the transition period.
The backstop would keep the UK temporarily aligned with the EU customs union. While Northern Ireland would be in a deeper customs relationship with the EU, much more closely aligned to the rules of the single market. And, controversially, the UK would not be able to unilaterally withdraw from the backstop until the EU is satisfied that there will be no return to a hard border in Ireland.
What happens now?
On Wednesday, members of Theresa May's cabinet approved the deal in a mammoth five-hour meeting.
The European Commission, the bureaucratic body of the EU, will agree the declaration on the future of the UK by November 20, after which the member states will have 48 hours to offer comments on the declaration, European President Donald Tusk said on Thursday.
The next step is for EU leaders to approve the deal. This will take place at an emergency Brexit summit on November 25, where the European Council will have to approve the draft deal.
A Brexit deal must also be signed off by a supermajority (at least 20 states representing 65 per cent of the population) of leaders of member states.
If the UK fails to sign a formal text with the EU, the UK will have to step up contingency plans for a no deal around December 1. This means preparing for border delays on the Calais-Dover route, among others.
In December, the British government will have to start a long process of passing the draft agreement through parliament, the biggest hurdle in the process for Mrs May. The UK supreme court ruled parliament must have a meaningful vote on the terms of Brexit, following a campaign by lawyer Gina Miller.
If the deal is rejected by parliament the government would have up to 21 days to put forward a new plan.
There would also be four potential outcomes: the UK leaves with no deal, the UK re-negotiates a deal, a general election is called, a second referendum is held.
If the deal is passed, the British government would have to pass a new piece of legislation: the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
The EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill would also have to pass the European Parliament, a body comprised of MEPs, by a simple majority (more than 50 per cent).
Assuming the bill passes through all of the European bodies, the UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, at which point a transition period would begin, lasting until December 2020.