What is the ‘transition’ period?
It refers to a period of time after 29 March, 2019, to 31 December, 2020, to get everything in place and allow businesses and others to prepare for the moment when the new post-Brexit rules between the UK and the EU begin. It also allows more time for the details of the new relationship to be fully hammered out. Free movement will continue during the transition period, as the EU wanted. The UK will be able to strike its own trade deals – although they won’t be able to come into force until 1 January 2021. This transition period is currently only due to happen if the UK and the EU agree a Brexit deal.
Do we know how things will work in the long-term?
No. Negotiations about future relations between the UK and the EU are taking place now. Both sides hope they can agree by mid-November an outline of how things like trade, travel and security will work. If all goes to plan this deal could then be given the go-ahead by both sides in time for 29 March 2019. Theresa May delivered a big speech setting out her thoughts on the UK and EU’s future relations on 2 March, 2018 and then followed that up in July with the Chequers Plan – the UK’s official offer to the EU on how Brexit should work.
What is the Chequers Plan?
Theresa May’s cabinet had a wide variety of views on Brexit – from those who opposed Brexit, to those who led the Leave campaign during the referendum. Getting them all to agree on a vision for the future has been quite a challenge. To do so, Mrs May invited her cabinet ministers to Chequers, her official country house in Buckinghamshire, in July to thrash out their differences and agree a plan.
The plan includes proposals for the UK to mirror EU rules on goods, plus the UK and EU being treated as a “combined customs territory” which would mean the UK would apply domestic tariffs and trade policies for goods intended for the UK, but charge EU tariffs and their equivalents for goods which will end up heading into the EU. The idea is that this would avoid the need for a visible border with the Republic of Ireland.
The plan suggests that the UK would also be free to strike its own trade deals with countries around the world, something it is currently unable to do as a member of the EU customs union.
Mrs May says the plan will also end the free movement of people “giving the UK back control over how many people enter the country”. But a “mobility framework” will be set up to allow UK and EU citizens to travel to each other’s territories, and apply for study and work.
A “joint institutional framework” will be established to interpret UK-EU agreements. This would be done in the UK by UK courts, and in the EU by EU courts. But, decisions by UK courts would involve “due regard paid to EU case law in areas where the UK continued to apply a common rulebook”.
Cases will still be referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) as the interpreter of EU rules, but “cannot resolve disputes between the two”.
What has been the reaction to the Chequers Plan?
The initial reaction was not positive – Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis both resigned a couple of days after the plan was agreed at Chequers. And it has not gained much support since then. Both those who oppose Brexit and those who want a clean break with the EU are unhappy with what is seen as a compromise deal. The European Union has also said the trade parts of the proposals are unacceptable. Mrs May has so far stuck by the plan, saying it is a workable one which takes on board both the UK and EU’s red lines, is the best possible one for the UK and EU economies and avoids the need for a visible border on the island of Ireland.