Written by Victor Anderson, freelance researcher/consultant on behalf of the Brexit Civil Society Alliance
Three documents play a key part in the Brexit withdrawal process. Two have just been published – the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration – and these are what the House of Commons will be voting on in the “meaningful vote” in December. However it is the third document which is the most important: the agreement which will set out the future relationship between the UK and the EU. This has not yet been published and formal negotiations about it will not even begin until after the UK has left the EU. In that sense it is misleading to talk about these first two documents as “the deal” – they are an agreement about the withdrawal process and transitional arrangements, and a statement of aims and intentions about the future deal, but they are not the future deal itself.
There is also an important difference in the status of the two documents which have already been published. The agreement about the withdrawal and transition is a draft treaty which will become legally binding when and if it is agreed. The political declaration, on the other hand, is simply a joint statement about what the UK and EU hope will emerge from their talks about the future deal. That future deal will be legally binding, but this political declaration is not.
If the withdrawal and transition agreement gets agreed, then the UK Government will bring forward a Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which will be taken through Parliament to provide for the UK part of the implementation of the agreement. If all goes smoothly from the Government’s point of view, the Commons will vote for the agreement in mid-December and the Bill will be published soon after, before Christmas, and then debated and voted on in the New Year, becoming law well before “exit day” on March 29. Currently it looks like the process will be far from smooth and the agreement may be renegotiated or added to in some way.
This briefing will focus, however, on what is in the current agreement and the declaration, and the implications for civil society organisations.