Withdrawal Agreement and related texts

Published

In the middle of November 2018, the European Union and the United Kingdom came to an agreement on the Withdrawal Agreement and a Political Declaration on the future relationship. It has not been possible to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement because the UK parliament has not approved it.

Following negotiations between the EU and the UK in the autumn of 2019, an agreement was reached on 17 October on a revised version of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland that is included in the Withdrawal Agreement. In connection with this, certain adjustments to the Political Declaration on the future relationship between the EU and the UK were also agreed. On the same day, the European Council gave its support to the amended Withdrawal Agreement and approved the revised Political Declaration.

An approval process is now under way in the UK parliament and in the European Parliament, which is a condition for the final conclusion of the Withdrawal Agreement and for it to enter into force.

The Withdrawal Agreement in brief

The Withdrawal Agreement contains 185 articles and three protocols. It contains the following parts.

Common provisions

Rules to understand and interpret the agreement. It is made clear that they have the same legal force in the EU as in the UK. The rules have direct effect, which means, if they are precise and clear, they can be cited directly by private individuals before national courts. EU legal terms are to be interpreted in accordance with EU law and taking into account the practice of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Citizens’ rights

Rules that mean that UK nationals in the EU, and EU citizens in the UK retain their rights. They cover those who have availed of their right to reside until the end of the transition period. They apply to those concerned with family members and children, including those not yet born.

Separation provisions

These clarify what applies at the end of the transition period for a number of ongoing procedures, granted rights, etc. 

For example:

  • goods placed on the market
  • customs procedures
  • intellectual property rights and protected geographical designations of origin
  • ongoing police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters
  • use of data and information
  • public procurement
  • state aid

Transition period

This means that the UK, in practical terms, remains in the EU until the end of 2020. It will apply EU laws and regulations, follow the Court of Justice of the European Union, but not participate in decision-making. The Joint Committee (see below) may adopt a single decision extending the transition period for up to 1 or 2 years, but not beyond 2022.

Financial provisions

The UK will pay as a member for the entire duration of the current long-term budget, until the end of 2020. After 2020, it will contribute what is outstanding under the long-term budget or previous commitments.

Implementation and dispute settlement

A Joint Committee of representatives of the EU and the UK will be responsible for the implementation and interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement. If the Joint Committee cannot agree on an issue, the EU or the UK may request the establishment of an arbitration panel, whose decision will be binding on the parties. If matters of EU law are raised, the panel must obtain an opinion from the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland

(revised compared with the November 2018 version)

This establishes the necessary arrangements for handling the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland and aims to avoid the creation of a hard border. Northern Ireland will remain in the EU single market for goods, but leave the EU customs union. In essence, the new solution means that Northern Ireland will apply all parts of the EU acquis required to eliminate the need for checks at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, including with regard to customs and value added tax. However, legally, Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK’s customs territory, which means that customs will not be levied on exports of goods from Great Britain that can be proven will not leave Northern Ireland. For certain defined goods, no checks will be made – the detailed regulation of this will be left to the Joint Committee to determine. The Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont is given the opportunity to give its approval to Northern Ireland remaining in the arrangement, for the first time four years after the end of the transition period and every four years thereafter. If the Northern Ireland Assembly does not give its approval to remain, a two-year period begins, during which the Joint Committee is to propose how to deal with the situation.

In addition, the Withdrawal Agreement contains a protocol on the sovereign base areas in Cyprus and a protocol on Gibraltar.

The Withdrawal Agreement on the EUR-lex website

The Political Declaration on the future relationship in brief 

(revised compared with the November 2018 version)

In a joint political declaration, the EU and the UK set out the framework for their future relationship. The text is not legally binding, but it will form the basis of future negotiations that will be initiated when the UK has left the EU. It consists of 141 points, divided across an introduction and five main parts:

Introduction: States basic goals etc.

Part I) Initial provisions: Establishes the basis for cooperation, including core values and rights, and areas of shared interest, etc. that are to form the basis of the relationship.

Part II) Economic partnership: States the ambition in a number of areas: goods; services and investment; financial services; digital; capital movements and payments; intellectual property; public procurement; mobility; transport; energy; fishing opportunities; global cooperation; and a level playing field for open and fair competition.

Part III) Security partnership: Deals with the ambition for cooperation on internal and external security.

Part IV) Institutional and other horizontal arrangements: Specifies the structure for the relations and the main ingredients of a future dispute settlement mechanism.

Part V) Forward process: Sights are set for the future relationship to be in place by the end of 2020.

The Political Declaration on the future relationship on the European Commission's website