Confused about what all this talk about the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is all about?
Let us break it down…
What is the Withdrawal Agreement?
The Withdrawal Agreement is all about setting out the process for withdrawal from the European Union. It’s simply that. The details of trade for example, amongst other things will be worked out during the transition period.
Alongside the withdrawal agreement there is also a ‘political declaration’ which sets out a vision for the future of UK-EU relations. The declaration sets out a future where “a free trade area and deep co-operation on goods, with zero tariffs or quotas”.
The Agreement Headlines
- Commitments over citizens’ rights after Brexit – no change, those who are here will retain their rights.
- A 21 month transition period after Brexit
- Financial settlement – £39bn “divorce bill”
The Irish Backstop
The Irish backstop remains a key pinch point for many. It determines whether or not the UK truly splits away from the EU or whether it remains tied. So what is the backstop?
In simple terms, the backstop is a safety net that ensures that no hard border is established between the UK and EU, more specifically, Northern Ireland and the Republic. The worry is that a hard border may reignite the troubles.
In real terms, the result of no hard border will mean that Northern Ireland will remain aligned to some EU rules. This will ensure that there are no checks on the Northern Irish-Irish border. However, goods coming over from the UK will be subject to additional checks.
The backstop essentially means that, through Northern Ireland, the UK will remain tied to the EU via a customs union. Brexiteers do not wish for such ties to remain and the DUP in Northern Ireland oppose anything that would establish a hard border in the Irish Sea.
Does the withdrawal agreement address the Backstop?
The UK Government has said that it does not wish to use the backstop and the agreement itself commits the UK and EU to resolve the issue through the transitional period negotiations through exploring and coming up with alternative arrangements. Further, it sets out that the transition period can be extended if no long term solution is reached by July 2020, but this can only be done once.
What happens next?
All is subject to whether or not the UK Prime Minister can survive the next 24 hours. If she is ousted, then whoever comes next could scrap the agreement altogether.
However, let’s assume she survives.
Once the draft deal is approved by the EU summit, Parliament will vote in December on whether it accepts the draft agreement or not. If it doesn’t, the UK Government has 21 days to put forward a new plan which could be anything from a People’s vote to a general election or leaving with no deal. If it accepts, then the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill will be introduced in early 2019. If this is rejected then again, a new plan will need to be put forward. If it passes, the European Parliament will vote, which will need a simple majority along with 20 countries needing to also agree (representing 65% of the population). Then, roll on the 29th March 2019. UK leaves the EU and the transition period begins which will end in December 2020, unless it is extended of course.
What does Plaid Cymru think?
In a statement on the steps of the National Assembly for Wales, Plaid Cymru’s leader Adam Price AM and Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts MP that the party will not support the Westminster Government’s Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration as it stands.
Speaking after the statement, Adam Price said:
“Plaid Cymru has consistently called for the least damaging Brexit possible, where Wales is in the Single Market and Customs Union – this proposal takes us on a trajectory that would make that impossible.
“Whilst throughout this process the European Union has acted like a genuine multinational organisation where the interests of all members are prioritised, especially those concerns of the Republic of Ireland, the British State has wilfully side-lined Wales. Far from a partnership of equals, Wales has been treated like a vassal country and this agreement has not been negotiated with Welsh interests at its heart.
“Plaid Cymru says Wales needs a New Deal, put to the people, with the option to remain.”