Publications & Insights Another stepping stone in the complex Brexit negotiations
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Another stepping stone in the complex Brexit negotiations

Thursday, 15 November 2018

A much anticipated draft agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (“UK”) from the European Union (“EU”) has been reached at negotiator’s level. The draft agreement consists of a lengthy 585 pages of reading. Although the draft agreement is focused on ensuring an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU, as opposed to agreeing a long term trade deal between both, early indicators are that the deal is good news for Ireland.

Subject to approval of the deal, Northern Ireland will be treated somewhat differently to the rest of the United Kingdom in order to protect the soft border. The draft agreement acknowledges the very specific situation relating to Ireland/Northern Ireland which requires a separate protocol to the agreement to establish durable arrangements in this regard. The draft agreement provides for the establishment of a specialised committee on issues related to the implementation of this separate protocol. 

The provisions of the separate protocol are intended to apply as a “backstop solution” in circumstances where at the end of the transition period, the protocol has not been superseded by a subsequent more long-term agreement, which the EU and UK are to use their best endeavours to implement by 31 December 2020 (with provision to extend the transition period if necessary). This backstop solution will act to ensure the overarching requirement that a hard border does not return to Ireland.

Some of the key points from the draft deal that affect the island of Ireland should the backstop solution come into operation are:

  • a single EU-UK customs territory will operate to avoid the need for tariffs, quotas or checks on rules of origin between the EU and the UK;
  • Northern Ireland will remain aligned with the rules of the single market and apply the full EU customs code on items such as legislation on goods standard, legislation on VAT and excise on goods and rules relating to agricultural production;
  • quantitative restrictions on exports and imports between the EU and Northern Ireland shall be prohibited;
  • the Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland will be protected, in particular with respect to free movement for EU citizens and their family members, irrespective of their nationality, to, from and within Ireland; and
  • preservation of the Single Electricity Market on the island of Ireland.

An emergency EU summit is scheduled for Sunday 25 November to allow EU leaders to approve the deal. Whilst generally the response to the draft agreement throughout the EU appears to be positive, the ability of Theresa May to deliver the deal locally is less clearcut. ByrneWallace will post updates as and when more information is available.

ByrneWallace has established a dedicated multi-disciplinary team to advise and represent both Irish and international businesses on the possible legal and regulatory implications of Brexit. 

For advice and support preparing your business for Brexit, contact a member of our Brexit Team.