UK moves a step closer to Brexit with EU withdrawal agreement

UK moves a step closer to Brexit with EU withdrawal agreement
2 min read
15 November, 2018
The UK moved closer to leaving the European Union on Wednesday, with a Brexit plan agreed.
May announced an agreement with the EU [AFP]
A blueprint was revealed on Wednesday that will see the UK exiting the EU, a decisive step in the Brexit process.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier announced that "decisive progress" had been made in the UK withdrawal from the European body.

On Thursday morning, Barnier is expected to announce an EU summit on the Brexit issue with the UK expected to leave on 29 March.

According to the withdrawal agreement, the UK will temporarily remain in the EU customs union, allievating fears of a hard Brexit.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May managed to win the support of her cabinet following a grueling five-hour meeting at her residence at Downing Street.

"The collective decision of cabinet was that the government should agree the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration," May said outside her Downing Street office.

Crucially, the agreement prevents a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a key concern for the UK.

The dead was "the best that could be negotiated", she said.

"The choices before us were difficult, particularly in relation to the Northern Ireland backstop."

"These decisions were not taken lightly, but I believe it is a decision that is firmly in the national interest," May added.

"When you strip away the detail, the choice before us is clear."

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted that he had sent Tusk a letter recommending that he "find that decisive progress has been made in the negotiations on the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union".

EU negotiator Michel Barnier said Wednesday that a Brexit deal would prevent the return of a hard border on Ireland by allowing the whole United Kingdom to remain within a customs union.

"We have now found a solution, along with the UK, to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland," Barnier said.

He added that the "backstop" would only be used if the two sides fail to reach a broader agreed within a 21-month transition. 

"If we are not ready by July 2020, we could jointly decide to extend the transition to provide for more time. Only if, and the end of transition extended or not, we are still not there with the future agreement would the backstop decision agreed today kick in."