Yesterday, after a marathon 5 hour meeting of the UK Cabinet, the UK Government announced that a deal had been reached with the EU27 on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU together with the outline of a political declaration on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.  The full texts of those, as well as the UK Government’s explainer on it, can be found here:

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/publications/draft-agreement-withdrawal-united-kingdom-great-britain-and-northern-ireland-european-union-and-european-atomic-energy-community-agreed-negotiators-level-14-november-2018_en

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/publications/outline-political-declaration-setting-out-framework-future-relationship-between-european-union-and-united-kingdom-great-britain-and-northern-ireland-agreed-negotiators-level-14-november-2018_en

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/756376/14_November_Explainer_for_the_agreement_on_the_withdrawal_of_the_United_Kingdom_of_Great_Britain_and_Northern_Ireland_from_the_European_Union___1_.pdf

We hesitated to comment immediately last night until we had time to digest the draft agreements, which we have done overnight.  The draft agreement includes a transitional arrangement until 31 December 2020 and mainly deals with ensuring an orderly exit from the EU and provides certainty during the proposed transition period.  While the draft agreement includes positive aspects such as on citizen rights, trade agreements, Gibraltar, immigration and ensuring no-hard border in Ireland, there are other areas that are conspicuous by their absence and yet others that arguably go against the UK Government’s ‘red lines’.  The UK opposition parties look likely to vote against the draft agreement as do the UK Government’s partners, the Democratic Unionist Party, and a significant number of MPs in the Prime Minister’s own party.  The parliamentary arithmetic shall be challenging and there have already been two key Cabinet resignations today, including the Secretary of State for the Department of Exiting the EU (a department which may be disbanded imminently).

It is far from clear whether the draft agreement will make it through its next steps in the UK.  On the EU side, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council will convene a meeting of the 27 Member States on 25 November.  Once the agreement clears that hurdle, it is intended to return to the UK Parliament in early December.  If it is approved, it then must be approved by a simple majority of the European Parliament and  by a qualified majority of the EU Member States (being those that have at least 65% of the total EU population).   If the agreement fails to get through, it is increasingly likely that there will be a change in government in the UK and possibly a general election in the near future.

The immediate prospects for the draft agreement will be determined by the next few days as the contents of the deal are digested and key politicians decide on their position.  In the meantime, the EU and UK negotiators will continue their work on the political declaration on the framework for the future relationship and seek to improve upon it.