Votes and deadlines keep moving on without final decisions taken

Ten days ago, negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom  announced they reached an agreement on a revised text of the Protocol on the Ireland/Northern Ireland border, on the necessary technical adaptations to the Withdrawal Agreement, as well as an on a revised Political Declaration. The European Council (Art. 50) held on 21 October endorsed the revised text of the Withdrawal Agreement and approved the revised Political Declaration. Now the ball is on the European Parliament’s camp who will also need to approve the Withdrawal agreement by simple majority. Nevertheless, the EP will not call for a vote as long as the agreement will not be ratified on the U.K side.

Uncertainty is the buzzword to be used in this process but at least some clarity has been thrown on three main aspects:

Border situation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

The revised Protocol provides a legally operational solution that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland, protects the all-island economy and respects the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement and the integrity of the Single Market. This solution responds to the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland with the aim of protecting peace and stability. All other elements of the Withdrawal Agreement remain unchanged in substance, as per the agreement reached on 14 November 2018.

How EU Regulations will be applied on the island?

In terms of regulations, Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a limited set of rules related to the EU's Single Market in order to avoid a hard border: legislation on goods, sanitary rules for veterinary controls (“SPS rules”), rules on agricultural production/marketing, VAT and excise in respect of goods, and state aid rules.

What about European legislation applicable to Agricultural Machinery?

CEMA confirms that the European legislation applicable to Agricultural machinery (type-approval, engine emissions, noise, waste, REACH…) is included in the limited set of rules identified by the revised withdrawal agreement. For detailed info check Annex 2 (9. Motor vehicles, including agricultural and forestry tractors).

Customs duties

The EU-UK Single Customs Territory, as agreed in November 2018, has been removed from the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland, at the request of the current UK government. EU and UK negotiators have now found a new way to achieve the goal of avoiding a customs border on the island of Ireland, while at the same time ensuring Northern Ireland remains part of the UK's customs territory.

The EU and the UK have agreed to create a new mechanism on ‘consent', which will give the Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly a decisive voice on the long-term application of relevant EU law in Northern Ireland. 

What about the future economic relationship the EU and the UK will establish after the exit?

The revised Political Declaration explains current UK government has opted for a model based on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The text provides for an ambitious FTA with zero tariffs and quotas between the EU and the UK. Robust commitments on a level playing field should ensure open and fair competition. The precise nature of commitments will be adequate with the ambition of the future relationship and will take into account the economic connectedness and geographic proximity of the UK.

Next steps:

  • The U.K Parliament needs to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement approved last week by the Council and the UK Goverment. British MPs still need to agree if, when and how to turn the agreement into U.K. law.
  • European Council President Donald Tusk announced the Brexit deadline is postponed until 31st of January 2020, after a letter sent by UK Government requesting it.
  • The European Parliament must also ratify the deal.

To be continued...