Brussels – EU and Britain negotiators have jointly agreed a political declaration that sets out the aspirations of both sides in their relationship after the divorce.
The 26-page document is based on an assumption that the UK will keep close ties after Brexit based on free trade, close regulatory alignment, and a strong security partnership.
A “basis for cooperation”, the political declaration is not legally binding and sits beside the far more voluminous Brexit withdrawal agreement, which has seen so much opposition in the UK.
Here are the major highlights of the political declaration explained.
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– Common values –
The declaration sees a very deep relationship between the UK and Europe, based on common values, individual rights, free trade and promotion of democracy — all hallmarks of EU membership.
While it cannot amount to membership, the future partnership “should be approached with high ambition… and recognise that this might evolve over time,” the document states.
– Ireland –
In a major issue for British Prime Minister Theresa May, the document stresses the “determination” by both sides to replace the divorce deal’s so-called back stop solution to avoid a hard border for Ireland.
– Trade –
On trade the document is a long way from a so-called hard Brexit, with both sides agreeing to hunt for “a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation”.
In a concession to hard Brexit supporters, the document promises that the UK will win back an independent trade policy, in as much as the final EU-Britain partnership will allow.
In what will be viewed as a win for most businesses, Britain and the EU promise to “build on the single customs territory”.
This means that the partnership would have no tariffs or other financial duties at the border.
On the crucial question of border checks and customs controls at borders — key for the Irish problem – the document envisages “a spectrum of different outcomes” based on the result of trade talks.
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– Regulation –
“While preserving regulatory autonomy,” both sides agree to avoid unnecessary barriers for businesses and that rules are compatible “to the extent possible”.
This will be a very closely watched aspect to the deal, with many UK businesses eager to see no major disruption due to big regulatory demands by Europe.
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– Financial services –
In a surprise to many, the ties that will bind the City of London — a global financial capital — to Europe after Brexit are well advanced, with Britain accepting a diminished role.
According to the document, “equivalent assessments” will have to begin “as soon as possible” signalling that Britain will pursue similar arrangements that Wall Street and Japan hold with the bloc.
Known as equivalency regimes, these arms-length relationships allow non-EU financial services to do business in the EU as long as their home countries are judged by the EU to hold up to similar standards of oversight.
– Migration –
Anger over EU migration was one of the key motivations that fuelled Brexit and the deal underlines that free movement between the two sides “will no longer apply”.
The parties agree that they will aim to provide visa free travel but only for short-term visits.
– Foreign policy and defence –
On foreign policy, the declaration envisages close cooperation between the UK and EU, while respecting the right of both sides to pursue their own path according to security and strategic interests.
It calls for the two sides to cooperate closely in international forums, particularly the United Nations, and to support each other when it comes to economic sanctions.
With Brexit, the EU is losing one of its leading military powers, and the declaration opens the way for Britain to take part in European defence projects, including those funded by the beefed-up European Defence Fund.
There is also an agreement that Britain should be able to take part in projects under the EU’s so-called PESCO defence pact, when invited to do so, though the details of how this would work are still hotly debated.
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– Security and law enforcement –
In the fight against crime, the two sides have agreed to set up mechanisms to share DNA information, fingerprints and vehicle registration details, and to “consider further arrangements” to exchange information on wanted suspects and missing persons.
But the declaration says the scope of such arrangements must reflect Britain’s willingness to follow EU rules and mechanisms, including the European Court of Justice. Breaking free of the court’s rulings has long been a key demand of Brexit supporters.