Today marks a significant step along our journey as we depart the European Union. The Prime Minister and David Davis flew to Brussels late last night for talks with Jean-ClaudeJunker, Michel Barnier and their colleagues, which went on through the night. This morning, both parties emerged from those talks with an agreed report, which will be put to the EU27 heads of state and government in the next EU Council meeting – scheduled to take place on 14 and 15 December 2017.
The report represents sufficient progress and that we should now move onto the talks about a future partnership, which is also referred to as ‘phase 2 talks’ or ‘the trade negotiations’.
The agreement the Prime Minister has reached covers three important areas, namely:
- secures the rights of the 3 million EU citizens living here and the million British citizens living in the EU;
- represents a fair settlement of our financial accounts; and
- maintains the Common Travel Area with Ireland, which has operated since the 1920s, and sets out both sides’ determination to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, while respecting the integrity of the UK’s internal market.
What the Prime Minister has achieved for us here in Norwich and the rest of the country is a result of long and, at times, difficult negotiations. Our final result represents a demonstrable shift in the EU’s position, when compared to its original position set out in its negotiating strategy earlier on this year.
This is a good deal for citizens, for taxpayers and for all parts of the United Kingdom that will allow us to get on to the vital trade negotiations and get quick agreement to an implementation period in the best interests of people and businesses in the UK and across the continent as we leave EU.
On citizens’ rights
As the Prime Minister has always said: “Our goal has been to let both EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU carry on living their lives broadly as before.” The agreement we have reached secures that.
I know EU residents in Norwich have been concerned about their future here in the city whilst negotiations were underway. I hope that they can now feel significantly more reassured that their status here as a valued member of society will continue if they meet the criteria as agreed in the report.
The UK has negotiated toughly but fairly with the EU to get them to cede ground so that a deal can be struck – a deal which protects the rights of the 3 million EU citizens living and working in the UK and the million UK citizens making contributions towards the economies of the EU27.
Just some of the concessions from the EU the Prime Minister achieved are:
- EU citizens’ rights will flow from UK law, rather than EU law and they will have to apply to the Home Office for documentation. As opposed to no documentation at all, as proposed by the EU’s starting position;
- The UK will be able to conduct criminality checks and will be able to ask individuals to disclose previous criminality when they apply for the right to stay here. Previously, the EU’s position was to prevent the UK from conducting these vital checks.
- The EU wanted to preserve existing settlement rights for future spouses of EU citizens living in the UK. The EU have now accepted that future spouses will be subject to UK immigration law that applies to non-EU spouses.
In the UK, EU citizens’ rights will be upheld by implementing the agreement into our law, instead of continued EU law enforced by the EU courts, as the EU first asked for. Thecompulsory jurisdiction of the ECJ will have ended.
However, that does not mean that EU citizens will not be able to enforce their rights. UK courts will consider the rulings of the ECJ, but will have ultimate authority to make final judgments on each case. This consideration will last for a period of up to 8 years and then cease to apply.
The agreed report says:
“The approach agreed in the context of the citizens' rights Part of the Withdrawal Agreement reflects both Parties’ desire to give those citizens certainty.”
The agreed approach in the report does just that.
This agreement not only provides certainty about residence, but also healthcare, pensions and other benefits. It will mean that EU citizens who have paid into the UK system – and UK nationals who have paid into the system of an EU Member State – can benefit from what they have put in and continue to benefit from existing coordination rules for future contributions.
On the financial settlement
The Prime Minister has said that we are a country that honours its obligations, and that is what we will do. We have agreed a fair settlement of commitments we have made while a member of the EU, in the spirit of our future partnership.
Following a rigorous assessment by our negotiators of claims made on the EU side, The Government expects the settlement to come in significantly below many of the initial projections, which some publications had suggested could run up to €100 billion. The likely value will come in significantly below that.
The value of the payment the UK will make to the EU cannot yet be determined, as it will be subject to foreign exchange rate fluctuations. It will also be determined by both the UK and the EU agreeing the method and schedule of payments. However, we can all rest assured that the final value will represent a good deal for us here in the UK.
Ultimately, the final bill will be paid over a series of years and will represent a significantreduction in what the UK would otherwise be paying to the EU were it still a member.
It is important to remember that this offer is not unconditional. The offer is made in the spirit of our future partnership, and depends upon a broader agreement being reached. Of course, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and if there is no agreement then the Prime Minister’s offer falls away too.
On Northern Ireland
The agreed report gives due consideration to the unique circumstances the UK faces with Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Once the UK leaves the EU, the Republic willbe the only EU country we will share a land border with.
The Belfast Agreement (also known as the Good Friday Agreement) established an open border on the island of Ireland and it is vital for that open border and the economic and social benefits it brings to remain in place.
Therefore, agreeing a report that allows this system to remain in place is crucial. The negotiations to get us to a point where everyone is in agreement has had the input of several parties and thanks to the perseverance of each of them, we are now in a position whereby the Belfast Agreement’s principles remain protected.
The agreed report states:
“The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border. Any future arrangements must be compatible with these overarching requirements.”
This marks a big achievement on our journey towards leaving the EU and everyone who has been involved in these very tough negotiations should take pride in the results they haveachieved.
So, what next? Now that the text of the report has been agreed between the UK and the negotiating team at the EU, it will be put to the EU Council next week. Once their agreementhas been achieved, we can move onto the exciting prospect of discussing our future relationship with the EU.
This is likely to cover a host of topics including: defence and security, trade and international development.
The Prime Minister has achieved a great deal in getting us to this point. We have made progress under difficult circumstances and everyone’s determination to achieve a text thatmeets the requirements of many interested parties should not go unnoticed.
The work to negotiate our future relationship with the EU will begin in earnest. As I have already been doing, I will continue to represent our fine city in Parliament and fight hard to ensure our vibrant and growing industries benefit as much as possible from the exciting times that lie ahead of us.