• The transition deal

Phase one on the divorce bill, the Irish border and citizens’ rights was successfully “fudged” in December albeit after a constitutional scare raised by the DUP.

While the UK Government rejected talk of a £100 billion goodbye fee, it settled on about £40bn.

The Irish border issue has been kicked down the road while Theresa May U-turned on citizens’ rights, agreeing those EU nationals who come to Britain during the Implementation/Transition Period will be able to stay permanently.

The same will apply to expatriates in Europe.

At last week’s European Council, agreement was also reached on the Implementation Period, which will run from Brexit Day, March 29, 2019, until December 31, 2020. Among the things agreed will be that Britain can negotiate, sign and ratify its own trade deals.

However, none of these deals will come into force until Brexit Day.


  • Northern Ireland

THE Prime Minister has insisted there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic post-Brexit.

The UK Government’s two main options to achieve a frictionless border are: a customs partnership, which would mirror completely the EU’s rules and a “highly-streamlined arrangement”, using technology to minimise disruption.

The former has been described by Whitehall as “intellectually perfect”; details on how it would work in practice will now have to be hammered out. Some fear total regulatory alignment with no border checks would be a smuggler’s charter; or worse.

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The third “back-stop” option, also contained in the December Agreement, would mean, if no agreement were reached, Northern Ireland would effectively stay in the customs union. Not something the UK Government wants.

If there were no deal, it is difficult to see how a hard border, and all that implies for social and political cohesion on the island of Ireland, could be avoided.


  • Trade

For Brexit supporters, leaving the European Union has the great prize of Britain being able to sign its own trade deals; to go global.

Because the UK is in the Brussels bloc and is part of the European customs union, it cannot do its own trade deals but is signed up to be part of the EU28’s negotiations.

Britain has now, after tough negotiations, won the right to set up and sign its own trade deals during the Implementation Period although they will not take effect until January 2021.

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The Prime Minister has said she wants a “deep and special partnership” with the remaining EU27 but Brussels has made clear any such relationship “must respect the principles and identity of the EU and the single market”.

While the UK insists it wants its trade with the EU to be as frictionless as possible, Brussels stresses friction is inevitable because Britain has ruled out staying in the single market and customs union.


  • Fish

Despite the UK ministers saying that, come Brexit Day, Britain would take back full control of its waters, they have given ground.

Regaining control will now not happen until December 2020 at the end of the Implementation Period.

While Britain will be at the table when deciding fishing quotas this December for the following 12 months – because it will still be in the EU – this will not be the case in December 2019 for the 2020 catch.

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For this 12-month period, it will be “consulted” although it has been assured its ongoing quota will not be cut.

Critics like Nicola Sturgeon have accused Mrs May of a “massive sell-out”.

Yet, in the game of negotiation, fishing is a big chip for Britain as it is very important to some EU partners whose fleets take a large part of their fish from the waters around Britain.

Some fear, however, that Mrs May might do an even bigger “trade-off” on fisheries in order to get what she wants in other areas.


  • Westminster

BOTH sides agree the basic deal on the future partnership has to be agreed by the autumn, so that it can get through ratification by Brexit Day.

The PM has promised MPs a “meaningful vote”. And, while Labour and others want the right to tell the Government to go back to the drawing board, Mrs May and her colleagues are adamant any agreement will be a “take it or leave it”. The crunch point is likely to come following the EU summit in mid-October. Mrs May is expecting all opposition parties at Westminster to vote against her agreed package that will take the country out of the single market and customs union permanently.

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Victory is likely to rest on persuading would-be Tory rebels to stay on side. While a few might defy their leader, these could be cancelled out by Jeremy Corbyn’s own small group of pro-Brexit rebels.

The Conservative alliance with the Democratic Unionists, which currently gives Mrs May a slender majority of 13, looks set to make all the difference.


  • Consumers

BREXIT has already hit the cost of goods – especially food.

This is largely because the fall in sterling following the 2016 referendum pushed inflation up.

Towards the end of last year, food prices rose at their fastest rate in four years.

Sterling’s devaluation has also driven up import prices.

All of this leaves retailers with a stark choice: absorb costs or pass it on to the consumer. Last month, a leaked government report suggested retailers should be braced for price rises of 20 per cent after Brexit.

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Throw in the prospect of extra tariffs and customs checks, and further price hikes for shoppers seem inevitable.

Migration will also have an impact. Businesses have warned a shortage of casual labour after Brexit would have a devastating effect.

Fewer foreign fruit pickers, for example, could leak to price rises. Some have predicted British strawberries could soar in value by as much as 50%.


  • Devolution

BREXIT is having a profound unsettling effect on devolution.

The UK, Welsh and Scottish governments are locked in dispute over how to redistribute powers currently exercised in Brussels. when they are repatriated. Under the devolution settlement, many ought to go directly to Edinburgh and Cardiff.

But the UK wants to “temporarily ring-fence” some devolved policy areas at Westminster to create UK-wide common frameworks to maintain the UK internal market. These would focus on agriculture, fisheries and the environment.

The devolved governments object to this “power grab”, and are demanding a say over how frameworks are established.

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They have passed continuity bills to take control of devolved EU law if there is no deal.

The UK Government may now refer the issue to the UK Supreme Court.

If there is no agreement by May, the UK Government may take the unprecedented step of imposing its preference via the EU Withdrawal Bill, even if Holyrood withholds its consent.


  • Travel

Precisely how Brexit will affect holidaymakers is still unknown.

During the 21-month transition period, UK nationals will be able to visit, live and work in the EU broadly as they do now. But the detail of these arrangements, and what comes after, is still up in the air.

Likewise, European Health Insurance Cards – which give you the right to access state-provided healthcare while in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland – will still be valid during the transition period, alongside other EU rules and regulations.

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UK officials want this to continue after 2021, and this will form part of the next stage of negotiations.

They also insist “plans will be in place to make sure pet owners can travel to and from the UK with their pets”.

Meanwhile, there is “no reason” UK citizens won’t be able to carry on using their current passports after Brexit, despite their EU branding.

Officials insist our passports already conform to international standards – and it’s in both side’s interests they stay valid.