Did people vote for a deal?
Vote Leave was the official leave campaign in which Boris Johnson and others campaigned promised a new EU-UK Treaty which would allow us to leave the EU in an orderly way. By way of contrast it was the official Remain campaign which talked up the possibility of falling back on WTO terms. Therefore a deal has always been a preferred outcome and I am pleased this has been negotiated.
Will the UK Leave the Single Market and Customs Union?
Yes the UK will be leaving the single market and customs union following a short and time limited Implementation Period due to end on the 31st December 2020. Crucially the UK will be leaving the customs union as a single customs territory meaning the entire UK will be able to benefit from free trade agreements we will be able to negotiate with other countries. Leaving the single market means we will be able to implement a points based immigration system and treat all nationals equally so there will be no discrimination when attracting international talent.
What is the Implementation Period?
The Implementation Period will last until December 31st 2020 and during this time the UK will be treated like a Member State of the EU. Whilst this is not desirable this additional time is essential whilst the UK and EU negotiates the Future Relationship (one based on co-operation) as opposed to now.
Yes there are drawbacks - the UK will have to follow EU rules during this period and cannot effectively leave the Single Market and Customs Union until the 31st December 2020. However, this is necessary as the UK has been unable to get in place all the new policies on fishing, immigration, agriculture and trade. Crucially the UK will be able to negotiate free trade agreements during this time (as a Member State of the EU this is illegal).
I am sure some might be concerned that this will become a drawn out process - as we have seen throughout the Article 50 process. However the Implementation Period is strictly time limited. There is the possibility of an extension but again the maximum is two further years.
What about the Divorce Settlement?
The UK has agreed to pay - as a result of commitments it signed up to as a Member State of the EU - the so called divorce bill to leave the EU.
The House of Commons Library has produced a helpful summary here:
Essentially the UK has agreed to pay for the existing budget it agreed in 2014 to cover the end of the Implementation Period. This amounts to an estimated £11 billion. Following the Implementation Period the UK has agreed to pay just under £20 billion over a forty year period. This amounts on average £500 million a year over this period. To put that in context we pay £20 billion in EU contributions. The saving even accounting for this are huge; about 97%!
Does the EU Deal hands over control of the UK Armed Forces?
No, to suggest otherwise is categorically untrue. Defence is not part of the Withdrawal Agreement and is solely the preserve of the Member States; it has nothing to do with our membership of the EU. The accompanying political declaration does make reference to UK co-operation with the EU on defence. However there is a distinction between the Withdrawal Agreement which is an international treaty and the political declaration which is a statement of intent for the trade talks to follow. Whilst we will continue to do-operate with many EU nationals through their member of NATO the Government will not be joining any EU army.
Does the Deal forces the UK to hand control over its fishing grounds?
Quite the reverse; we will be exiting the Common Fisheries Policy and the Fisheries Bill introduced in Parliament will develop the future policy relating to this issue. The Political Declaration makes clear that the “UK will be an independent coastal state”. During the next round of trade talks it will be up to the UK to determine what access if any foreign vessels will have to British fishing grounds. This is quite different to today where we have no control over this.
What about the settlement with Northern Ireland?
The revised protocol effectively removes the backstop. The old backstop effectively meant that the UK could not leave the Customs Union until a new free trade agreement had been agreed. There was no time limit and it became a concern to many - including the Attorney General - that this created an unacceptable risk. It was also undemocratic as Northern Ireland itself would never get a say on how these arrangements would end.
The new protocol is explained through this excellent briefing note https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-8720/CBP-8720.pdf
In summary however the new protocol allows the UK to leave the customs union with its customs territory intact, allowing Northern Ireland to benefit from UK wide trade agreements. In addition, it will create a single regulatory zone for the island of Ireland avoiding a hard border.
Although this will involve some checks on the Irish Sea border between Great Britain and Ireland it should be noted that there is already a single agricultural regulatory zone on the Island of Ireland meaning this does already take place.
However, these arrangements will only continue by the consent of the Northern Irish people through their representatives. These arrangements will not be permanent if they do not work for Northern Ireland.