- A deal has been reached between the European Union and the United Kingdom on phase one of the Brexit talks.
- The European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker revealed early on Friday morning that “sufficient progress” has now been made.
- This opens the way for negotiations on the future trade relationship between the UK and EU to begin.
- Theresa May said the deal makes sure there will be “no hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
- The prime minister said the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and British citizens living in the EU will be protected.
- The EU wants freedom of movement to continue during the transition period.
- There is still disagreement on the rights of future spouses of EU citizens living in the UK.
- The UK will keeping paying money to the EU for years to come, and the total divorce bill is estimated at £40billion.
- DUP leader Arlene Foster said she was now satisfied there would now be “no red line down the Irish Sea” separating Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
- The European Court of Justice will still have an influence in UK courts for eight years after Brexit.
- The agreement on the Northern Ireland border means that in the case of no deal, the UK will have “full alignment” to the rules of the Single Market and customs union - a huge win for Remainers.
Theresa May has agreed an historic Brexit divorce deal with the European Union, paving the way for the negotiations to move onto future trade talks.
After a pre-dawn meeting in Brussels, the Prime Minister joined European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in announcing the breakthrough.
Juncker announced that “sufficient progress” had been made in the talks to allow both sides to move onto discussions of a future trade deal between the UK and EU after 2019.
May said the deal “had required give and take on both sides” and after “some tough negotiations” she had agreed the ‘divorce bill’, which is expected to total up to £50bn.
She also guaranteed rights for EU and UK citizens, including a continuing, time-limited role for the European Court of Justice, and new words on the crucial issue of Northern Ireland.
“I’m confident that we can ensure we both won’t have a hard border in Northern Ireland but will retain the economic integrity of the United Kingdom,” May said.
“In Northern Ireland we will guarantee there will be no hard border. We agreed…there should be no barriers north-south or east-west.”
The deal came after a night of lengthy telephone diplomacy with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) over the fate of the Irish border in any future post-Brexit trade deal.
The DUP, which props up May’s minority government in Westminster, gave the first confirmation of the breakthrough when its leader Arlene Foster announced the whole of the UK would quit the EU single market and customs union.
Foster insisted that “six substantive changes” had been made to an earlier draft agreement on how Northern Ireland would conduct its trade with the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the UK.
But she also made plain she was not entirely happy and that May had forced the issue in order to meet Brussels’ deadline of sorting a deal by Sunday, ahead of next week’s EU summit with all 28 national leaders.
“There are still matters there that we would have liked to clarify. We ran out of time essentially,” Foster said. But she added “there’s no red line down the Irish sea”.
May said she would personally commit to the people of Northern Ireland her key pledges protecting the future ‘integrity’ of the province’s role within the UK.
The breakthrough today means the UK can now begin talks on a post-Brexit free trade agreement with Brussels.
The EU had refused to progress negotiations to phase two until a deal was done on the Irish border, citizens’ rights and how much money the UK will pay as it leaves the bloc.
Both sides met over croissants in Brussels but after just over 30 minutes both May and Juncker emerged to announce a deal had been done and the EU summit next week is now expected to approve it.
Juncker said that he was “sad” that the UK was leaving the union, but said the two sides would “take things one step at a time” to agree issues such as trade and security in the “second phase of these challenging negotiations”.
The first sign of a deal came when Juncker’s chief of staff Martin Selamyr tweeted a picture of white smoke emerging from the Vatican, a traditional symbol that an historic decision had been reached.
At their joint press conference, May explained that she wanted the future free trade deal with the EU to be all-encompassing for the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland.
The PM said that “if that is not the case, we will look to” agreeing a cross-border solution that recognised the “specific circumstances of Northern Ireland” and its “unique” role as the only land border between the UK and the EU.
But EU council president Donald Tusk had the most ominous warnings for Tory Eurosceptics, declaring any transition period after 2019 would mean the UK having to take EU rules without any say over them.
“As you know the UK has asked for a transition of about 2 years while remaining part of the single market and customs union and we’ll be ready to discuss this but naturally we have our conditions I propose that during this period the UK will respect the whole of EU law including new law,” he said.
“It will respect budgetary commitments, it will respect judicial oversight and of course all related obligations. Clearly within the transition period following the UK’s withdrawal EU decision making will continue among the 27 member states, without the UK.”
Tusk added that the next phase of talks would be “much harder” and pointed out that it had taken Britain 18 months since the Brexit referendum to even get to this stage of preliminary agreements.
“So much time has been devoted to the easier part of the task. And now, to negotiate a transition arrangement and the framework for our future relationship, we have de facto less than a year.”