The UK Government Brexit negotiators headed by David Davis have reached a draft agreement on some points with the EU task force led by Michel Barnier.
You can download the draft agreement here: Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community
All 27 member states will have to agree to the document and for some issues there has still been no agreement reached. They are all clearly colour coded in the paper.
What has been agreed so far? (mind on it is a draft)
This will commence on 30th March 2019 and last until 31st December 2020. During that time the UK will be able to negotiate, sign and ratify international agreements but will not be able to apply them. So no functioning Trade Deals outside the EU until after 31st December 2020.
During the Transition period EU Law will be applicable in the UK. The UK may also be invited to attend meetings with the rEU states.
A Joint Committee will be set up which will meet at least once a year.
” A Joint Committee is hereby established, comprising representatives of the Union and of the United Kingdom. The Joint Committee shall be co-chaired by the Union and the United Kingdom”
A whole section is set by for fishing which is of national importance to Scotland but of little value to the UK as a whole.
Article 125 : Specific arrangement relating to fishing opportunities
This makes clear that EU fishers will retain access to the UK fishing grounds for the whole of the transition period. But more crucially the UK will have to abide by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
” the United Kingdom shall be consulted in respect of the fishing opportunities related to the United Kingdom, including in the context of the preparation of relevant international consultations and negotiations”
” the Union shall offer the opportunity to the United Kingdom to provide comments on the Commission Annual Communication on fishing opportunities, the scientific advice from the relevant scientific bodies and the Commission proposals for fishing opportunities for any period falling within the transition period.”
The Scottish Fisherman’s Federation was very vocal during the EU Referendum with their leader Bertie Armstrong urging its members to vote Leave.
In the weeks after the vote for the UK to Leave the EU Bertie Armstrong commented on his hope and ambition for the industry saying that ” the new opportunities presented by the referendum result are overwhelmingly for the better ” and went on to warn against a ‘Project Fear‘ being instigated by the Scottish Government’s concerns over what would happen to fishing with Brexit.
Leaving the EU and with it the CFP also dominated the fishing and coastal communities of Scotland during the snap General Election of 2017 which saw the big beasts of the SNP Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond fall to be replaced by Tory MPs.
During the May 2017 General Election many politicians and candidates ,some of which have since become MPs, signed a pledge in support of restoring control of UK waters. This included Ruth Davidson, leader of the Tories in Scotland.
At the time Bertie Armstrong commented:
“Brexit offers us a huge opportunity to re-assert control of our waters and to establish once and for all a sensible, practicable new fisheries management regime.”
Here is the Pledge they signed:
I pledge my support to the following declaration:
“Brexit offers a ‘Sea of Opportunity’ for fishing communities the length and breadth of the country as it will allow us to restore control of our waters, which are home to some of the richest fishing grounds in the world.
“We must maximise this opportunity for the benefit of the UK fishing industry – processors, hauliers and fishmongers as well as those at sea – and for consumers.
“We urge the industry and Government to work together to establish a sensible, practicable new fisheries management regime for the post-Brexit era.”
“Access to our fishing grounds should be an issue for post-Brexit negotiations when we have become a Coastal State.”
“We must avoid any policy, practice, regulation or treaty which could return us to the Common Fisheries Policy and the enforced giveaway of almost two-thirds of our fish stocks.”
Future weeks will demonstrate if those who were elected on the back of that pledge will keep it.
In June 2017 Bertie Armstrong said:
“Brexit will automatically remove the UK from the Common Fisheries Policy framework, so legislation to ensure that the UK is solely responsible for both access to and management of our waters is very welcome indeed.”
That is now known not to be the case.
As the implications of the Draft Agreement was unfolding an angry Bertie Armstrong blamed both the Scottish Government and the UK Government even though Scotland has had no say in the negotiations.
“This falls far short of an acceptable deal. We will leave the EU and leave the CFP, but hand back sovereignty over our seas a few seconds later. Our fishing communities’ fortunes will still be subject to the whim and largesse of the EU for another two years.”
Discontent has grown in the fishing community with founding members of the SFF, Clyde Fishermen’s Association resigning from the organisation.
The CFA state:
“It is time to ensure we have the best representation possible for our fishing communities. This transitional deal is incredibly disappointing, its nothing short of an opportunity missed.It is clear that our representation and voice needs to quickly change,increase and improve on all fronts,we will do our best to ensure this happens.”
The Border Between Ireland and Northern Ireland
This issue appears in yellow and in green in the Draft Document which means agreement has not yet been fully reached in some areas but that the essential parts of the policy are.
Part of the Protocol (not fully agreed) recognises “that it is necessary to address the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland through a unique solution in order to ensure the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union”
It proposes a special arrangement between Ireland and the UK. The Scottish Government which continues to argue from the standpoint that Scotland voted Remain was informed by the UK Government that no such special arrangement could happen for Scotland. It appears that it can for Northern Ireland.
What has been agreed is that there will be a common travel area between the UK and Ireland and that they ” may continue to make arrangements between themselves relating to the movement of persons between their territories (the “Common Travel Area”), while fully respecting the rights of natural persons conferred by Union law.”
And ” to free movement for Union citizens and their family members, irrespective of their nationality, to, from and within Ireland”
Other areas to be included in this special agreement are:
- the environment
- inland fisheries
- justice and security
- higher education
“In full respect of Union law, the United Kingdom and Ireland may continue to make new arrangements building on the provisions of the 1998 Agreement in other areas of North-South cooperation on the island of Ireland.”
All of this will be looked over by a Specialised Committee.
“With respect to the Draft Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, the negotiators agree that a legally operative version of the “backstop” solution for the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland should be agreed as part of the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement, to apply unless and until another solution is found.”
The Rights of EU Citizens in UK & UK Citizens in rEU
Agreement has been reached giving some hope to the uncertainty felt by both EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the remaining 27 states of the EU.
Right of Permanence Residency
People who have legally resided for 5 years continuously “shall have the right to reside permanently in the host State.” This can only be lost if the person is no longer resident for over 5 years.
For people who have been resident for less than 5 years they “ shall have the right to acquire the right to reside permanently ….once they have completed the necessary periods of residence.”
There may be a requirement for residents and their dependents to apply for new residency status and this would have to be completed before the last 6 months of the transition period was up. There is a reassurance that the applications shall be “short, simple, user friendly ” with families being considered together.
Whatever arrangements are finalised people who have been living and working in the UK and those UK citizens now in the other 27 countries of the EU will have to present documents and other information to prove their status.
The draft agreement also gives reassurances to the protection of qualifications, movement of goods, security information, data during the transition period and a host of other issues.
The UK will continue to pay its share into the EU Budget during the transition period including commitments made leading into 2021.
In addition “Until 31 December 2020, the United Kingdom shall contribute to the financing of the European Defence Agency, the European Union Institute for Security Studies, and the European Union Satellite Centre, as well as to the costs of Common Security and Defence Policy operations”
There is still much to be discussed with the Draft Document and the agreement of all 27 EU states is needed to ratify it. This article has covered some aspects of the document as an initial response to its publication on Monday 19th March.
Over the coming weeks we will continue to keep readers informed of the facts and of the reactions to the agreement both in Orkney and Scotland.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame
Statement from Clyde Fishermen’s Association