UK, EU reach breakthrough Brexit agreement

The UK and the European Union reached a significant milestone in their pursuit of a Brexit deal, breaking a deadlock and allowing talks to move on to a crucial second phase.

Posted: Dec 8, 2017 6:34 AM

The UK and the European Union reached a significant milestone in their pursuit of a Brexit deal on Friday, breaking a deadlock that allows talks to move on to a crucial second phase.

After a dramatic night of shuttle diplomacy that capped months of tortuous negotiations, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the breakthrough at an early morning press conference in Brussels.

Crucially, the two sides reached a deal on the historically sensitive issue of the Irish border, which had threatened to derail the talks as they reached a critical moment earlier this week. Discussions can now move on to the potentially tougher issue of a future trading relationship between the UK and the EU.

The breakthrough represents a significant coup for May, whose beleaguered premiership had appeared under threat as talks faltered. It was also a relief for EU negotiators, who feared a complete breakdown in talks if a deal was not done.

"Getting to this point required give and take on both sides," May said. "And I believe the joint report that is being published is in the best interest of the whole of the UK."

What has been agreed?

Agreement has now been reached on three key issues: Britain's Brexit "divorce" bill, the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, and the Irish border. When Brexit negotiations began just under six months ago, the EU was clear on its position: It would not countenance any discussion about a future trading relationship with Britain until "sufficient progress" had been made on those three issues.

Irish border: The Irish question proved the toughest to resolve. The demilitarization of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was a key element of the Good Friday Agreement, the 1998 deal that ended years of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. Now, the border posts are gone and people can move freely around the island of Ireland.

But Brexit raised the prospect of a return to a "hard" border, as Northern Ireland would leave the EU while the Republic of Ireland remained in the bloc.

Complicating the issue, May's minority government depends on the support of on a small group of 10 MPs from Northern Ireland, members of the hardline Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). They were adamantly opposed to any suggestion that, to avoid a hard border, Northern Ireland could retain laws and regulations that were more aligned to the EU than the rest of the UK.

The DUP vetoed the text of an earlier deal on Monday, just as May was having lunch with Juncker in Brussels to finalize it. She was forced to return to London as negotiators spent the rest of the week hammering out a solution acceptable to the DUP, the Irish government and the EU.

The language of the deal announced on Friday remains ambiguous. It says: "In the absence of agreed solutions, the UK will maintain full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the customs union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 agreement."

That's a backstop. It means that, in the next stage of talks, the UK must come up with solutions that avoid a hard border, otherwise the UK will have to remain tied to EU rules even after Brexit. That scenario would enrage the ardent Brexiteers in May's Conservative Party.

Divorce bill: Friday's agreement says the UK would be required to continue making contributions to the EU budget up to the end of 2020 "as if it had remained in the union". The report adds that the UK will remain liable for its outstanding financial commitments and liabilities up to December 3, 2020.

Rights of EU citizens after Brexit: EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa will have their rights to live, work and study protected. British courts will enforce the rights but, in a concession to Europe, the UK has agreed that difficult cases can be referred to the European Court of Justice for eight years after Brexit.

Late-night drama

Discussions stretched into the early hours of Monday morning. When it was clear that a deal was done, May and her chief Brexit negotiator David Davis dashed to Brussels for a breakfast meeting with Juncker and other officials.

Speaking alongside Juncker in the Belgian capital, May said the agreement was "fair to the British taxpayer" and resolved the outstanding issues of the Irish border. In Northern Ireland we will guarantee there will be no hard border, and we will uphold the (Good Friday Agreement)."

"No barrier north-south or east-west," she said.

Juncker said: "Sufficient progress has now been made on the three terms of the divorce." Negotiations for the UK to leave the EU can now proceed to the next stage, he added.

If agreement had not been reached on Friday it would have been impossible to prepare for its ratification at a summit of EU leaders on December 14 and 15, he said. "We had to make the deal today."

Reaction

The leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, claimed she had secured "substantial changes" to the text she rejected on Monday, adding she was "pleased" to see changes which mean there is "no red line down the Irish Sea".

In a statement, the DUP said it had won clear that commitments from the Conservatives that "Northern Ireland will leave the single market and the customs union along with the rest of the United Kingdom."

Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said that the UK had guaranteed there would be no hard border on the island of Ireland and that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement had been fully protected. "It's a very significant day for island of Ireland," he said.

Varadkar added that the common travel area, the arrangement that allows citizens to travel freely between Britain and Ireland, would remain in place and that Irish and British citizens would continue to enjoy the same rights after Brexit as they do now.

In London, the reaction from May's colleagues was positive. UK environment minister Michael Gove, one of the leading figures in the Leave camp during the Brexit referendum, said: "I think it's important to recognise this is a significant personal political achievement for the Prime Minister."

"She got a deal in the interests of the whole of the UK, so the integrity of the UK is absolute and paramount," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

But former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who has long championed Brexit, criticized May over the deal, claiming the country could now "move on to the next stage of humiliation."

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, warned that the next stage of negotiations would be even tougher. ''Breaking up is hard, but breaking up and building new relations is much harder," he said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 36578

Reported Deaths: 2258
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion10188604
Lake3876207
Allen181071
Cass15919
Elkhart158528
St. Joseph135838
Hendricks120478
Hamilton119194
Johnson1125113
Madison60061
Porter56233
Clark53942
Bartholomew53139
LaPorte44824
Howard44236
Tippecanoe4344
Jackson4012
Delaware39741
Shelby39722
Hancock35427
Boone32436
Floyd31941
Vanderburgh2913
Morgan28626
Noble27821
Montgomery24917
Clinton2471
White2399
Decatur23132
Grant22923
Dubois2113
Kosciusko2052
Harrison19622
Marshall1872
Henry18512
Vigo1828
Greene17226
Dearborn17122
Monroe17113
Lawrence17124
Warrick16729
Miami1461
Putnam1427
Jennings1324
Orange13122
LaGrange1282
Scott1263
Franklin1168
Ripley1086
Daviess10416
Carroll952
Wayne906
Steuben902
Wabash812
Newton8010
Fayette797
Jasper741
Jay580
Clay533
Randolph523
Rush513
Fulton511
Washington501
Pulaski500
Jefferson491
Whitley453
DeKalb451
Starke423
Perry390
Huntington382
Sullivan371
Wells350
Owen341
Brown331
Benton320
Knox310
Blackford272
Tipton261
Crawford250
Adams231
Switzerland220
Spencer221
Fountain222
Gibson202
Parke180
Posey160
Martin140
Warren131
Ohio130
Vermillion100
Union100
Pike60
Unassigned0180

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 125915

Reported Deaths: 5795
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook813443880
Lake8647334
DuPage7997394
Kane6672205
Will5799285
Winnebago246566
McHenry167779
St. Clair126292
Kankakee98954
Kendall83919
Rock Island70325
Champaign6777
Madison62465
Boone49817
DeKalb4508
Sangamon36029
Peoria30111
Jackson30010
Randolph2734
McLean22613
Ogle2253
Stephenson2115
Macon20020
Clinton19017
Union17114
LaSalle16016
Whiteside14913
Coles13817
Iroquois1355
Warren1220
Out of IL1161
Grundy1112
Knox1020
Jefferson10116
Monroe10012
McDonough9113
Unassigned900
Lee821
Tazewell815
Cass760
Williamson753
Henry700
Pulaski580
Marion520
Jasper467
Macoupin462
Adams441
Morgan421
Perry420
Vermilion421
Montgomery411
Livingston362
Christian354
Jo Daviess321
Douglas280
Jersey241
Menard220
Bureau211
Fayette213
Ford211
Woodford212
Washington190
Mason180
Mercer180
Carroll172
Hancock171
Shelby161
Alexander140
Schuyler130
Bond121
Franklin120
Fulton120
Moultrie120
Clark110
Crawford110
Johnson110
Logan110
Piatt110
Brown100
Cumberland100
Wayne91
Effingham81
Henderson80
Massac70
Saline70
Greene60
Wabash60
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland40
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
White20
Calhoun10
Edgar10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Terre Haute
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 60°
Robinson
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 62°
Indianapolis
Few Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 61°
Rockville
Clear
56° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 56°
Casey
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 62°
Brazil
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 60°
Marshall
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 60°
Mostly sunny and hot
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Art honors Hoosier pilot

Image

Protesters gather for change

Image

Free Fishing Weekend

Image

First outdoor market of summer in Terre Haute

Image

Individual diploma presentations

Image

Protesters demand justice for George Floyd

Image

1 injured in ATV accident

Image

Saturday Morning Forecast Update

Image

Umpires

Image

The Salvation Army and the historic origins of National Donut Day

WTHI Events