UK and EU agree Brexit transition deal with green lines but there is work still to be done

A display highlighted areas of agreement between the two sides. Credit: AP
  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

A Brexit transition deal has been agreed which will allow talks on the future trade relationship between the EU and UK to be triggered later this week.

Brexit Secretary David Davis hailed the agreement between Britain and the European Commission as a "significant step" following talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels.

Green lines on the negotiation document highlighted the areas of agreement, however, as demonstrated by the above picture, several issues are still under dispute.

Details not yet agreed between the EU and UK include:

  • Measures creating an area without internal borders in which the free movement of goods is ensured and cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic is protected.

  • Prohibiting customs duties on imports and exports between the EU and UK specific to Northern Ireland, including duties of a fiscal nature.

  • The banning of restrictions on imports and exports between the EU and Northern Ireland.

  • Internal taxation rules.

  • The application of EU law surrounding VAT and excise duties, agriculture, fisheries products and environmental protection to Northern Ireland.

So what has actually been agreed on?

Under the terms of the joint legal text agreed by Mr Barnier and Mr Davis, the UK will be able to negotiate and ratify trade deals with outside countries following Brexit day in March 2019, to enter into force after the end of a transition period lasting until the end of 2020.

EU citizens arriving in the UK during the transition, as well as Britons settling on the continent, will have the same rights as those in place before Brexit day, said Mr Barnier.

Mr Barnier said that there had been "complete agreement" on future citizens' rights and the financial settlement as well agreement on a transition period after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

What happens next?

The agreement must be approved by EU leaders meeting at the European Council summit on March 22 and 23. This will allow vital negotiations on future EU/UK trade relations to get under way in earnest.

Talks will continue on outstanding issues over the summer before a final text of the withdrawal is agreed in October and sent to the European and UK parliaments for ratification.

Mr Barnier said they had made a "decisive step" towards agreeing a joint legal text on the UK's EU withdraw, but cautioned: "We are not at the end of the road and there is a lot of work still to be done."

David Davis and Michel Barnier stand in front of display showing draft of Negotiation agreement. Credit: PA

What if we can't agree?

On the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, Mr Barnier said the two sides had agreed how the issue would be dealt with during the remaining negotiations.

He said they had agreed that the EU's "back stop position" which would see Northern Ireland effectively remain part of the single market if there was no wider agreement, would form part of the legal text of the withdrawal agreement.

"The backstop will apply unless and until another solution is found," he said.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "I think what this shows is that with goodwill on both sides, working hard, we can get an arrangement for the future which will be in the interests of the UK and in the interests of the European Union and it will be good for all parts of the UK."