‘Further work’ needed to seal future EU-UK link, says Varadkar

Government to reflect on joint political declaration which is seen as ‘good starting point’

British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday (November 22) that a draft declaration on post-Brexit ties with the European Union had been agreed with the European Commission and that she would seal the deal on Sunday.

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said “detailed further work” will be needed to legally confirm the shape of the future relationship following the joint political declaration published by the EU and UK.

The new dispensation is a “good starting point” on how links can be developed after Brexit, according to the Government.

“The joint political declaration agreed between the EU and UK negotiators will now be carefully considered by us with our EU partners,” said a Government spokesman.

“Its ambition to have a deep and comprehensive partnership between the EU and the UK is welcomed, including across a range of areas of importance to Ireland, such as trade, transport, energy and judicial and police co-operation.

“It represents a good starting point for the detailed further work that will be needed over the coming months to provide the legal framework for the future relationship. We will continue working to ensure that our economy is fully protected after Brexit”

Now the deal has to be approved by the remaining 27 EU member states so that the separate withdrawal agreement, which outlines how Britain leaves the EU, can be ratified.

The political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and EU was “agreed at negotiators’ level and agreed in principle at political level”, European Council president Donald Tusk said earlier today.

“I have just sent to EU27 a draft political declaration on the future relationship between EU and UK. The commission president has informed me that it has been agreed at negotiators’ level and agreed in principle at political level, subject to the endorsement of the Leaders,” said Mr Tusk.

Draft political declaration between EU and UK

British prime minister Theresa May said the agreement with the commission on the draft political framework represented the “right deal” for the UK.

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street early on Thursday afternoon, she said: “This is the right deal for the UK. It delivers on the vote of the referendum, it brings back control of our borders, our money and our laws and it does so while protecting jobs, protecting our security and protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom.”

Britain and the EU are to develop an “ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership”, according to a leaked version of the 26-page declaration on future relations that is due to be approved at a summit on Sunday.

While Thursday’s developments are being hailed as a breakthrough, Mrs May is still struggling to get a separate 500-page withdrawal agreement through the House of Commons as she also fights to maintain her position following a string of cabinet resignations by hardline Conservative Brexiteers last week.

Mrs May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Junckeron Wednesday evening provisionally agreed the bulk of a 26-page text that will form the final part of Britain’s exit package from the bloc. The draft covers everything from extensive trade liberalisation to “operational co-operation” between police forces.

‘Frictionless’

Sterling jumped more than 1 per cent to trade above €1.12 and $1.29 on the news, its biggest rise for three weeks.

The draft falls short of Mrs May’s aspirations for “frictionless” trade in goods with the EU after Brexit. But its ambitious tone offers the PM significant help in Westminster as she prepares to sell the deal.

“While it cannot amount to the rights or obligations of membership, the Parties are agreed that the future relationship should be approached with high ambition with regard to its scope and depth, and recognise that this might evolve over time”, states the draft. “Above all, it should be a relationship that will work in the interests of citizens of the Union and the United Kingdom, now and in the future.”

On the contentious issue of the Border, the draft political declaration reportedly states that new “facilitative arrangements and technologies” will also be considered in developing any alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a permanent hard border.

Earlier in the talks, the UK side had raised the issue of using technology and customs arrangements as a way of avoiding a hard border, with the necessary checks carried out without border checks.

While the EU side dismissed this – noting the lack of working examples anywhere else in the world – the idea has been revived in recent days, as Mrs May seeks to bring the Brexiteer lobby on board.

However, Ireland will rely on the the draft withdrawal agreement, finalised last week, which includes a legally-operable backstop arrangement – an insurance of no hard border – involving the whole of the UK staying in the customs union for a period, if this is needed to avoid a hard border.

Irish sources have said that this guarantee remains in place, under the withdrawal agreement, unless and until a new way of avoiding a hard border emerges, most likely via new trading arrangements negotiated between the EU and UK after Brexit.

Some parts of the Brexit package are still under negotiation, but EU diplomats say only a few manageable issues remain outstanding. Mrs May will now meet Mr Juncker again on Saturday to seek to finalise work on the declaration and so bring two years of sometimes fraught Brexit talks to a close.

The publication of the draft follows two hours of talks in Brussels on Wednesday between Mrs May and Mr Jean-Claude Juncker aimed at paving the way for EU leaders to sign off the Brexit deal on Sunday.

London’s FTSE 100 took a hit from the currency’s resurgence, which make UK exports less competitive and increase the cost of repatriating revenue earned abroad into sterling. The main UK stock index was down 1.3 per cent, compared with a 0.6 per cent fall for the Europe-wide Stoxx 600. – Financial Times Limited/PA

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