Saturday, 3 March 2018

The Draft Withdrawal Agreement: Getting Down to Business at Last

Jane Lambert











The draft withdrawal agreement that the European Commission published on 28 Feb 2018 has to be welcomed. As every lawyer (if not every business person) knows, there comes a time in every negotiation when the provisions that appear to have been agreed must be committed to writing. Then and only then can potential deal breaking issues be identified and perhaps addressed. The sooner that is done the greater the chance of a successful outcome.

The thing that struck me most about the draft agreement is its length: 168 articles plus protocols on Ireland and Cyprus each with its own annexes compressed into 118 pages. I am surprised by how much has been agreed or is capable of agreement. Obviously there are a few hot issues such as those in the Protocol on Ireland that could scupper everything but there is so much more that has been, or can easily be, agreed.

The main body of the draft is divided into the following Parts:
  • Part 1 - Common Provisions
  • Part 2 - Citizens' Rights
  • Part 3 - Separation Provisions
  • Part 4 - Transition
  • Part 5 - Financial Provisions
  • Part 8 - Institutional and Final Provisions.
Part 1 consists of 7 articles the most important of which is art 1:
"This Agreement sets out the arrangements for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ('United Kingdom') from the European Union ('Union') and from the European Atomic Energy Community ('Euratom')."
There follow definitions and interpretive provisions.

Arts 8 to 35 constitute Part 2 which are divided into 4 Titles. The first contains general provisions such as definitions and basic principles such as continuation of residence and non-discrimination. Title II divides into 3 chapters on rights related to residence, workers and the self-employed and recognition of professional qualifications respectively. Title III is on social security and Title IV contains final provisions.

The bulk of the draft treaty (arts 36 to 120) is in Part 3 which is also divided into Titles some of which are further subdivided into Chapters.  Title I is on goods placed on  the market. Title II on customs procedures, Title III on VAT and other duties, Title IV on intellectual property, Title V on police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, Title VI on judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters, Title VII on data protections, Title VIII on public procurement and similar issues, Title IX on Euratom and related issues, Title X on EU administrative and judicial procedures, Title XI on administrative cooperation, Title XII on privileges and  immunities and Title XIII on other issues relating to the EU. Interestingly, the provisions of Title IV on intellectual property are silent on the Unified Patent Court and unitary patent. They cover the conversion of EU trade marks, registered Community designs and Community plant varieties into the corresponding British rights and the adaptation of provisions on supplementary protection certificates and the exhaustion of rights.

Part 4 contains 5 articles (arts 121 - 126) on the transition period.

Part 5 (arts 127 to 150) is divided into 7 Chapters covering currency (Chapter 1), the UK's contribution to the budget up to 2020 (Chapter 2), the European Central Bank (Chapter 3), the European Investment Bank (Chapter 4), European Development Fund (Chapter 5), Refugees in Turkey (Chapter 6) and Common Defence and Security (Chapter 7).

Part 6 spells out the continued jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the implementation period and beyond and the establishment at art 157 (1) of a joint committee to supervise and implement the agreement and resolve disputes.

This instrument is, of course, only a draft and it is likely to be changed over time but it sets out the likely framework of the withdrawal agreement contemplated by art 50 (2) of the Treaty on European Union as well as the transition or implementation period between 29 March 2019 and 31 Dec 2020. Should anyone wish to discuss this draft, he or she should contact me during office hours on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.

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