Theresa May has today confirmed that negotiators in Brussels have reached an agreement on the text of the document that outlines our future relationship with the EU. This isn’t the Withdrawal Agreement, but the political declaration that sets out the framework for the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
Here’s the difference.
The withdrawal agreement sets out the parameters within which the United Kingdom will withdraw from the European Union. The draft agreement, as it stands, is 585 pages long, and it explains everything from time frames and territories, to the handling of customs matters, the backstop, and rights.
This agreement will be put to a vote in the European Parliament on Sunday, and later to a meaningful vote in the House of Commons in early December. Spain has signalled its intent to vote against the deal, citing issues like disagreements over control of Gibraltar, but the vote will take place on a qualified majority basis and is likely to pass.
This is not a Brexit deal, per se. This is a deal that facilitates our withdrawal. It does not explain how Britain will trade and cooperate with the EU when the transition period ends.
This document’s full title is “Political Declaration Setting Out the Framework for the Future Relationship Between the European Union and the United Kingdom.”
It acts as a basis for how the UK will trade and cooperate with the European Union after the transition period has come to an end (whenever the UK and the EU decides that will happen). This will require further Brexit negotiations that are likely going to continue for a period of years – at least until 2020. As I’ve mentioned before, though, this can be extended once for an unspecified period of time, according to agreements made between the UK and the EU. This is all assuming the “deal” passes in the Commons, of course.
This declaration document was just seven pages long originally, though after continued negotiation with the EU just days before the final November summit, it has been expanded to 26 pages and now sets out a more detailed basis for our future relationship.
More Years of Negotiations
This isn’t the end of May’s negotiations. Once some kind of withdrawal agreement is passed – or, in fact, assuming it can be passed in Parliament – May has to spend at least the next two years negotiating our future relationship with the EU.
Brexit is merely the process of withdrawing from the EU. Now we need a new relationship with the EU, and the Political Declaration sets out the framework for that. Worryingly, the document serves as a framework to be “improved upon” – suggesting that her Customs Union backstop idea will serve as the basis of our future relationship.
So unless we change leader, you can expect Britain to remain locked to the EU’s trade and negotiation regulations for many more years to come.