Brexit breakthrough: Here’s what it all means
Talks ran through the night between UK Prime Minister Theresa May, leader of the DUP – Northern Ireland’s biggest party – Arlene Foster, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Irish leader Leo Varadkar.
Tensions between the leaders had reached fever pitch during the week as the heads of state fought their country’s corner. However, by Friday morning it was announced that marathon all-night talks had culminated in an initial plan on which everyone agreed.
Here RT breaks down the key points of that agreement:
Ireland gets to keep its soft border
We have achieved all we set out to achieve in Phase 1. This is not the end but it is the end of the beginning. The Good Friday Agreement is fully protected & the Common Travel Area will continue. The UK is committed to avoiding a hard border. #Brexitpic.twitter.com/kMxIMgBuAn— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) December 8, 2017
The Irish government was unhappy with the language in the initial proposal from the UK on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Earlier in the week Taoiseach Varadkar (Ireland’s PM), even threatened to delay negotiations until the new year if a deal couldn’t be brokered.
Determined to move on to phase two of negotiations before the Christmas break, the group worked through the night to come up with a new agreement that Varadkar called “cast iron” and “bulletproof.”
All other issues are to be ironed out in phase two but, if those negotiations break down, there is now a clear default or insurance policy that guarantees there will be no customs or trade barriers between the Republic of Ireland and the UK.
Citizens get to keep their rights
1/2 Delighted we've reached an agreement which will give both Europeans here in the UK and British citizens in the EU binding guarantees about their residence rights.— Amber Rudd MP (@AmberRuddHR) December 8, 2017
As per the agreement, the more than 3 million EU citizens living and working in the UK will continue to enjoy the current freedom of movement principals. The guarantee also applies to British citizens living in other parts of the EU.
Crucially, everyone born in Northern Ireland will still retain EU AND British citizenship. The European Court of Justice will continue overseeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK for eight years after their withdrawal.
In his press conference Friday Varadkar told unionists in Northern Ireland: “We want to build bridges, not borders,” and to nationalists: “Your birthright as an Irish citizen is protected."
Common travel area
Under Friday’s 11th hour deal citizens on the island of Ireland will continue to move freely between the North and Republic. This had been a major concern for business people, and the thousands who live and work either side of the border.
Move to phase 2 of talks good - but devil is in the detail and things now get really tough. If #Brexit is happening (wish it wasn’t) staying in single market & customs union is only sensible option. And any special arrangements for NI must be available to other UK nations.— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) December 8, 2017
Talks will now turn to the transition period. The UK has asked for a two-year implementation period from the exit date, bringing the cut-off point to March 2021, in which they would remain in the Single Market and Customs Union – the terms of just how involved Britain will be in the EU during that period has yet to be determined.
Britain and the EU will also have to decipher what their relationship will look like post-divorce, specifically if and how the two will fight issues such terrorism and international crime together.
“We all know that breaking up is hard. But breaking up and building a new relation is much harder,” said President of the European Council Donald Tusk, harking back to Neil Sadaka’s 1975 hit.
“Since the Brexit referendum, a year and a half has passed. 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.”
Given that this so-called “easier part” of the negotiations was far from plain sailing, the transition talks look likely to be particularly arduous.
For his part Varadkar had one final message for citizens of Northern Ireland. “There will be no hard border on our island. You will never again be left behind by an Irish government."