Negotiations officially began on 19 June 2017, with the UK accepting a phased negotiation timeline suggested by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator.
Phase one concluded in December 2017 with the following terms agreed in principle:
- Financial settlement. The UK will pay a ‘divorce bill’ in the region of £35-39 billion to the EU to cover existing obligations
- The Irish border. There will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, though how this is achieved will depend on the terms of the final deal
- Citizens’ rights. EU citizens living in the UK – and UK citizens living in the EU – prior to Brexit will retain many of the rights afforded to them under EU law
Phase two is ongoing and is focused on the future relationship between the UK and the EU, including the future trading relationship. This phase is expected to run until October 2018, leaving time for the terms of the final withdrawal agreement to be ratified by the UK parliament, and the European Council and Parliament, before the leave date. As part of this phase of negotiations, a transition period of 21 months has been provisionally agreed, which is scheduled to start immediately after the leave date.
This transition period has been controversial among hard hard Brexiteers as Britain will be subject to the majority of EU rules and regulations for its duration – including the free movement of goods, services, people and capital – but won’t have a formal say on their application or development.
However, its proponents say it will provide a degree of continuity to businesses and citizens, and give time for the more minute details of the future relationship between the UK and EU to be discussed and agreed. Britain will also be free to negotiate new trade deals, which would come into force after the transition period ends.