What is the Brexit news?

After a five-hour emergency Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May secured Cabinet approval of her Brexit plan and Thursday recommended the draft text to Parliament. Negotiators for the European Union have already agreed to the draft plan. Several U.K. Cabinet ministers have since resigned, suggesting ministerial support is not unqualified and the deal is by no means secure.

What’s in the draft Withdrawal Agreement?

The draft U.K.-EU Withdrawal Agreement was released shortly after the Cabinet approved it. The 585-page agreement covers all aspects of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union, including a transition period, mobility and EU/U.K. citizens’ rights, trade and a customs union, EU Court jurisdiction, and the land border between the U.K. (Northern Ireland) and Ireland. The key immigration-related provisions are summarized in detail below.

Transition period

A 21-month transition period during which free movement would remain in place will run until the end of 2020. EU citizens and U.K. citizens would retain the same rights to free movement, to work, study and access public benefits and to residency eligibility as they currently enjoy under EU law until the end of the transition period. The U.K. may at any time before July 1, 2020 request extension of the transition period.

Irish citizens

The U.K. will ensure that the Common Travel Area continues to apply. The CTA gives Irish and U.K. citizens the right to travel, live and work in each other’s countries without further processing.

Citizens’ Rights

EU citizens in the U.K. (and U.K. citizens in the EU) and their family members legally residing in the host country before the end of the transition period are eligible for permanent residency after accumulating five years of continuous residency and may count the time after 2020, if needed, to accrue the five years. EU citizens residing in the U.K. before the end of the transition period will need to register for a residency document within six months of the end of the transition period, i.e., no later than June 30, 2021. Close family members joining an EU national after 2020 will have three months from their arrival (or until June 30, 2021 if they arrive before April 1, 2021) to apply for settled status. Procedures are to be “smooth, transparent and simple” and avoid any unnecessary administrative burdens.

EEA and Swiss nationals

The citizens’ rights provisions are expected to apply to nationals of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway (European Economic Area nationals) and Switzerland pending reciprocity agreements between the U.K. and the four countries.

Professional qualifications

Professional qualifications will continue to be recognized in accordance with the EU Directive until the end of the transition period for all qualifications submitted before 2021. The U.K. will continue to retain access to internal market information systems for nine months following the end of the transition period.

EU Court jurisdiction

The U.K. will apply EU case law until the end of the transition, and U.K. administrative and judicial authorities will give due regard to EU case law decided after the transition period.

Northern Ireland

Until a superseding agreement is reached, a single customs union between the U.K. and the EU will be established to ensure the continued movement of goods and avoid a hard land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and to protect the Good Friday Agreement. The U.K. and the EU will work to reach a superseding agreement before the transition period ends on Dec. 31, 2020.

Analysis & Comments

The mobility citizens’ rights provisions have not changed significantly since an earlier draft version, and the U.K. has already completed two pilot phases of the scheme for EU citizens to apply for settled status, which provides a fairly clear roadmap for U.K. and EU nationals regarding their mobility rights in the future. Other terms of the Withdrawal Agreement remain contentious with both hard-line Brexiters and opponents of Brexit, but the Cabinet’s endorsement of the Withdrawal Agreement marks a significant step in Brexit proceedings and will hasten negotiations with only five months before the U.K. leaves the EU. The European Council now plans to convene EU leaders at a special Brexit summit Nov. 25 to formally accept the Withdrawal Agreement.

Source: Deloitte LLP. Deloitte LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC303675 and its registered office at 1 New Street Square, London EC4A 3HQ, United Kingdom.