Thursday, 15 November 2018

Draft Withdrawal Agreement - November 2018 - No.1

"When you strip away the detail, the choice before us is clear. This deal which delivers on the vote of the referendum, which brings back control of our money, laws and borders; ends free movement; protects jobs, security and our union; or leave with no deal; or no Brexit at all" - Theresa May, Downing Street, 14 November 2018.

The proposed Withdrawal Agreement and Outline Political Declaration were both published on Wednesday 14 November - BBC News 15 November.  Both documents were "collectively agreed" by the Cabinet following a lengthy meeting held during the afternoon and evening.

Following the meeting, the Prime Minister made this brief statement.  A fuller statement was made in Parliament during the morning of 15 November and it may be read HERE.  The full debate is available via Hansard.

It is a requirement of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 section 13 that the House of Commons must approve both documents when they are finalised.

What will happen in the existing fragile political atmosphere is by no means clear. This morning
several Ministers resigned including Mr Dominic Raab - Secretary of State for Exiting the EU and, as such, the Minister with specific responsibility for negotiations with the EU.

There is considerable doubt that the parliamentary voting arithmetic exists for the agreement to receive the necessary approval.  For example, following the Prime Minister's statement, the Leader of the Opposition clearly stated that the Withdrawal Agreement does not meet Labour's Six Tests.  Further, Mr Ian Blackford MP (Scottish National Party) said that the deal was "dead in the water" and he made it clear that Scotland wishes to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union.  It is as certain as anything can be in politics that they will vote against the agreement.

Those MPs who plan to vote against will need to consider very carefully the enormous economic damage that exiting the EU without any deal will entail.  That would be the cliff-edge Brexit feared by British business and the unwanted hard border across Ireland will be inevitable.  The Preparedness Documents issued by government for a "no deal" scenario are by no means happy reading!  (The EU has issued similar material - Here).   Further, if the agreement is not approved then it is far from certain what will follow but the clock ticks remorselessly toward exit day - 29 March 2019.

Leaving aside the political situation, there are 3 documents to look at - (A) Joint Statement of 14 November; (B) Outline Political Declaration and (C) the Draft Withdrawal Agreement.  The remainder of this post considers A and B and leaves C to be analysed in greater detail in future posts.

: Three documents :

A)  Joint Statement 14 November 2018 - the negotiators reported agreement at negotiators’ level on the full text of the draft Withdrawal Agreement, and on an outline of the Political Declaration on the framework for the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The Joint Statement offers an update on the position regarding the withdrawal agreement and the Protocol (in that agreement) for Northern Ireland.  Crucially, neither the EU nor the UK wish to see the backstop enter into force and the withdrawal agreement sets out a shared intention to negotiate a future agreement that supersedes the Protocol.



The Outline Political Declaration records the progress made in reaching an overall understanding on the framework for the future relationship, describing the agreed structure, scope and objectives of cooperation between the Parties, which will be set out in more detail in the Political Declaration.  It shows the convergence achieved in recent months, on the basis of the European Council Guidelines of March 2018 and the United Kingdom’s White Paper of July 2018, including on -

The Joint Statement indicates that further work will be required during the negotiations on the future relationship.  Two specific areas for such further work are mentioned - Trade in Goods and Internal Security.

B)  The Outline Political Declaration is a 7 page document (with 5 parts) issued as a prelude to the fuller Political Declaration.  FULL reading essential !

Part I of the document is a statement of shared values including "reaffirmation of the United Kingdom's commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and the Union’s and its Member States' to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the Union."

Part II Economic Partnership addresses:
  • Goods - Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation .....
  • Services and Investment - Ambitious, comprehensive and balanced arrangements on trade in services and investment .....
  • Financial Services -Commitments to preserving financial stability, market integrity, investor protection and fair competition .....
  • Digital
  • Intellectual property/Public procurement
  • Mobility
  • Transport - will include Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, covering market access and investment, aviation safety and security, air traffic management and provisions to ensure open and fair competition ......
  • Energy - including wide-­ranging Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) and the United Kingdom .....
  • Fishing opportunities - Cooperation bilaterally and internationally to ensure fishing at sustainable levels, promote resource conservation, and foster a clean, healthy and productive marine environment .....
  • Global Co-operation - Cooperation, including in international fora, such as in the areas of climate change, sustainable development, cross-border pollution, trade protectionism and financial stability. Also, reaffirmation of the Parties' commitments to international agreements to tackle climate change .....
  • Level Playing Field for Open and Fair Competition - Competition must be open and fair. Provisions to ensure this should cover state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environmental standards, climate change and relevant tax matters, building on the level playing field arrangements provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement and commensurate with the overall economic relationship.
Part III Security Partnership - this outlines the future relationship for:
  • Law Enforcement and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters - Comprehensive, close, balanced and reciprocal law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, with the view to delivering strong operational capabilities for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of criminal offences, ....
  • Foreign Policy, Security and Defence - this area includes Participation by the United Kingdom on a case-by-case basis in Common Security and Defence Policy missions and also Collaboration by the United Kingdom in relevant current and future projects of the European Defence Agency through an Administrative Arrangement ....  Under this heading there is also Timely exchange of intelligence between the United Kingdom and relevant Union bodies as well as Consideration of appropriate arrangements on space cooperation, including satellite navigation, where in the Parties' mutual interest .....
  • Thematic co-operation - this covers a number of areas including cooperation on counter-­terrorism, countering violent extremism and emerging threats through dialogue, sharing best practices, operational cooperation and reciprocal voluntary information exchange
  • Classified and Sensitive Non-classified information -there would be a Security of Information Agreement ...
Part IV  Institutional Arrangements -

Part V - Forward Progress

Given that we have only seen an OUTLINE document it will be necessary to keep an eye on developments as negotiations progress.  It is expected that a larger document will be prepared for the European Council at the end of November but even that is unlikely to be the final version of the declaration.  It is important to note carefully that the declaration is a political one and, as such, is not legally binding but it will form a framework for negotiations on the future relationship.

C)   The largest document is of course the Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, as agreed at negotiators' level on 14 November 2018

The full document extends to 585 pages and includes 185 articles together with Protocols relating to Northern Ireland, Cyprus, and Gibraltar.

Follow up posts will examine aspects of the draft agreement in greater detail.


The European Commission has issued Brexit Negotiations: What is in the Withdrawal Agreement 14 November 2018.

Article 126 states that - "There shall be a transition or implementation period, which shall start on the date of entry into force of this Agreement and end on 31 December 2020." 

More to follow ...... !

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