Theresa May agreed a ‘withdrawal agreement’ with the EU following what was reportedly a series of long and intense negotiations. On 15th January, British parliament voted 402 to 232 against her Brexit deal which proved to be a catastrophic defeat for Theresa May.
The “withdrawal agreement” was roughly 600 pages long but, on closer inspection, it did not actually constitute any agreement on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. It reaches no conclusion on some of the most important issues affecting British trade and security in a post-globalised world.
1. Transition period
A transition period had been defined that extends beyond the 29th March 2019 deadline for leaving the EU. This transition period was to last up to July 2020. An option had been included in the deal for Britain to extend the transition period (once only) to December 2020 if the Irish border issue, outlined below, could not be dealt with in time.
2. The Irish border
Northern Ireland would have continued to hold an informal arrangement with the EU that’s similar to its existing policy of free trade and movement with the Republic of Ireland. A formal agreement would have needed to be made by the end of the transition period, but a return to border checks could jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement that helped put an end to conflict in Ireland.
3. Citizens’ rights
3 million EU citizens live in the UK, whilst 1 million UK nationals reside in European countries. Existing rights for citizens already living abroad had been assured by the agreement, but the withdrawal agreement did not outline a clear policy for future immigration.