New Brexit deal - what has changed?

The key changes in the 'new' Brexit deal relate to Northern Ireland and trade - though it also closes the door to the softest forms of Brexit which would have virtually kept the status quo for Britons in the EU.

On Northern Ireland the deal arrives at complex new compromises which remove the need for a 'backstop' and allow the UK to sign its own trade deals, while on trade it lays out a future relationship which makes the UK clearly a 'third country' to the EU and rules out it remaining in the single market, an option which was theoretically possible in the version agreed by Theresa May.

Such an arrangement would have meant keeping Ehics, S1 forms, EU pet passports and no requirement for a carte de séjour.

The ‘Theresa May deal’ had proposed that the two sides should try to come to such a close trading relationship during transition period talks after Brexit that no hard border would be needed between Ireland and Northern Ireland for checks of goods’ compliance with standards or to collect import tariffs.

It also proposed that ‘alternative arrangements’ like hypothetical new technologies might also make physical checks unnecessary.

However if the transition period came to an end and nothing was ready then a ‘backstop’ should come into play for as long as the EU and UK agreed it was necessary.

The EU had originally proposed a backstop keeping only Northern Ireland in a customs union with the EU and following some single market rules. But Theresa May said the British MPs would not accept Northern Ireland being treated so differently from the rest of the UK.

The backstop in her deal stated that Northern Ireland would retain parts of the single market standards on goods and the whole of the UK would remain in a customs union with the EU. However this would have prevented the UK from signing any new trade deals with third party countries while this was in place.

The new deal does not contain any backstop, but rather a permanent arrangement for Northern Ireland aimed at avoiding a hard border.

Northern Ireland would remain aligned with a limited set of EU single market rules, particularly on goods and food, however Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would leave the EU’s customs union and Northern Ireland could be part of any future trade deals signed by the UK.

Northern Ireland would follow EU rules on goods entering from outside the EU and there would be customs checks on goods coming in, not at the border with Ireland, but in ports.

Goods would be able to cross from mainland UK to Northern Ireland without any EU tariffs being payable, as long as they are for use in Northern Ireland only but EU customs duties would apply to goods entering that are likely to enter the EU single market.

The Northern Irish assembly would have to give consent to the arrangement continuing four years after the end of the transition period. If it did not, there would be a two-year period during which negotiations would take place with the EU as to how to avoid a hard border again.

As regards the Political Declaration on the future relationship, the new version moves away from a vague statement about creating a “trading relationship on goods that is as close as possible”, to a clear statement that the UK and EU will negotiate a Free Trade Agreement, in the same way as any negotiation between a third country and the EU.

Under the previous declaration it was possible the UK could have agreed to remain in the EU single market, much as Norway is in the single market but not the customs union and can still sign its own trade deals. Norway is also outside the EU's common agricultural policy or common fisheries policy.

However it has free movement of people as well as goods, services and capital, and makes annual payments to the EU. It is answerable legally not to the European Court of Justice, but the separate Efta court.

Such a 'Norway option' could have protected Britons' free movement and residency rights without a carte de séjour, but it would have met with opposition from those in the UK who want 'to take back control of our borders' and oppose large payments to the EU.

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