The UK has left the European Union, but the Brexit saga still has a long way to run.
A series of crucial issues need to be resolved with Brussels in the coming months.
– What happens now?
The UK and European Union need to reach agreements by the end of the year to prevent what is effectively another no-deal scenario.
– Is that likely?
The kind of partnership envisaged in the Political Declaration goes far beyond a traditional trade deal, promising an “ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership” including law enforcement and criminal justice, foreign policy, security and defence.
British citizens’ ability to work and travel across the EU, as well as healthcare access, from 2021 will all be on the table in the negotiations – with the same being true for EU citizens in the UK.
Trade deals alone usually take years to negotiate and are mostly aimed at bringing the two sides closer together rather than, as is the case with Brexit, allowing one party to drift away from the other.
German chancellor Angela Merkel said “these negotiations will certainly not be easy” adding that the EU would be “representing its own interests, and Britain will do the same”.
– So why has the deadline been imposed?
The declaration commits both the UK and EU to begin negotiations as soon as possible so that new arrangements can come into force by the end of 2020.
The Withdrawal Agreement allows for an extension of up to two years, if agreed before July 1 – but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has enshrined in law a promise not to seek a delay.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has said that without an extension “you cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our new partnership” by the deadline.
– What will the trade deal look like?
The aim is for a deal with no tariffs and no quotas on goods crossing between the UK and EU.
But that does not mean friction-free trade, as the further the UK wants to diverge from EU regulations the harder it will be to maintain access to the single market.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove acknowledged there “will be some regulations that will differ in Britain” so “that may mean that when it comes to trading with Europe there are some bureaucratic processes there that aren’t there now”.
Ms von der Leyen has said that “with every decision comes a trade-off ” and “the more divergence there is, the more distant the partnership has to be”.
– What about fisheries policy?
The Government has introduced legislation which it says ensures the UK will become an independent coastal state, quitting Europe’s common fisheries policy and ending automatic access for EU vessels to fish in British waters.
But with future access and quotas set to be negotiated with the EU, there are concerns in the fishing industry that it could lose out if it is traded off in return for securing a beneficial outcome for other areas of the economy such as financial services.
The Political Declaration targets a UK-EU deal on fisheries by July 1.
– When will talks begin?
Downing Street has said the UK Government is ready for talks to begin as soon as possible.
But the EU needs to get its negotiating objectives endorsed by all 27 members, meaning it may be March before talks formally begin – further squeezing the tight timetable.
– Who will be involved?
The Department for Exiting the European Union has been scrapped now Brexit has happened, so a new taskforce will lead the negotiations for the UK.
It will be led by Mr Johnson’s chief Europe adviser David Frost, reporting directly to the Prime Minister.
For Brussels, the negotiations will be led by the familiar figure of Michel Barnier, who led the talks for the EU during the first phase of the Brexit process.