Brussels [Belgium], Nov 15 (ANI): The European Union (EU) published the draft Brexit deal after the British Cabinet backed the draft, and held a press conference where Michel Barnier, EU's chief negotiator, gave an outline of the draft deal.
The draft withdrawal agreement includes 185 articles, 3 protocols, and several annexes, and is 585-pages long.
Barnier outlined five crucial subject-matters that the draft deal contained, including the rights of the citizens of both the parties, financial regulation, intellectual property rights, governance of the withdrawal agreement and the agreement of a transition period.
"European citizens living in the United Kingdom and British citizens living in a Member State of the Union before the end of the transitional period can continue to live their lives as before in their country of residence. They will be able to continue to live in their country of residence, to study there, to work there, to receive allowances, or to bring their families there, for the duration of their lives," Barnier mentioned, allaying confusion regarding the fate of the citizens.
Next, he noted that financial commitments made by the UK and the EU would be honoured by both the sides.
Barnier remarked that the draft agreement had also found solutions to European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) issues, the protection of existing intellectual property right, and the use and protection of personal data exchanged before the end of the transition period.
Highlighting that the draft agreement creates a framework "with a first step" for the resolution of disagreements, Barnier stated that it is imperative for both sides to properly implement the agreement.
Confirming that the United Kingdom will leave the EU and all its institutions on March 29 next year, Barnier also said that the "current" situation would be maintained between the sides as far as the internal market, the customs union and European policies were concerned for a period of 21 months- from March 30, 2019 to December 31, 2020. This will enable citizens, administrations, and businesses to prepare and adapt to the change, he said at the press conference.
Barnier further mentioned that the sides could "foresee" a possibility of extending the transition once for a limited period through a joint agreement. He also highlighted three protocols in the draft deal regarding the crucial regions of Gibraltar, Cyprus and Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Underscoring bilateral agreements signed by Spain and the UK regarding Gibraltar, the chief negotiator stated that the protocol established the bases for administrative cooperation on several subjects including citizen's rights, taxation, cooperation in police and customs matters amongst other areas.
Pronouncing the second protocol, Barnier said, "This Protocol allows the continuation of pre-existing arrangements between Cyprus and the United Kingdom, notably to enable the 11,000 Cypriot citizens established in the territories under sovereignty to continue to live like today."
Announcing the third protocol, Barnier stated that both the sides had agreed to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, while Northern Ireland will continue being a part of the United Kingdom.
However, both the sides will conclude a final agreement before the end of the transition period regarding the region by July 1, 2020.
An extension in the transition period can be sought if a final agreement is not reached, with the establishment of a single EU-UK customs territory as a backstop solution as an alternative.
"The creation of the single customs territory includes the corresponding level playing field commitments and appropriate enforcement mechanisms to ensure fair competition between the EU27 and the UK," a release issued by the European Union stated.
However, Barnier highlighted that the backstop situation is not meant to be used as the objective is to positively reach a new agreement between the EU and the UK before the end of the transition.
The chief negotiator's last point regarding the content of the draft deal brought the framework of the future relationship to the fore.
"Today, through this draft joint political declaration, we are laying the foundations for the ambitious partnership we want. A free trade area based on extensive regulatory and customs cooperation and a level playing field. Our goal is to achieve a zero tariff and quota for all goods, based on what we propose in the withdrawal agreement for a single customs territory. It will obviously remain, as the European Council has given me the mandate, the condition of a new fisheries agreement," he said.
He also mentioned that both sides would work together in sectoral cooperation, Cooperation on internal security, police and judicial cooperation, and on foreign policy, external security and defence.
Barnier mentioned that further work will be done regarding this with the 27 member states of the EU and that he would be working with the European Parliament on November 15 (local time).
Underscoring that a lot of work is yet to be done, Barnier concluded his speech by stating, "We have never negotiated against the UK but always with the UK. Today, in my capacity as the EU's chief negotiator, I consider that we have achieved decisive progress in the Brexit negotiations. The UK will remain our friend, our ally and our partner, " according to Meena Andreeva, the Deputy Chief Spokeswoman of the European Commission.
The Brexit draft deal was agreed on by negotiators from both the UK and the EU on November 13 (local time), following which UK Prime Minister Theresa May successfully got the British Cabinet's approval for the draft agreement on November 14 (local time) after a five-hour meeting.
On June 23, 2016, citizens of the United Kingdom had voted to leave the EU after which the UK had formally notified the European Council of its exit by evoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on March 29, 2017. (ANI)