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This Withdrawal Agreement covers all elements of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU: the financial settlement, citizens’ rights, a transition period, Protocols on Ireland and provisions for the placing of goods on the market as well as a range of other separation issues, the terms of which are outlined below.

Specifically, ICOS welcomes the Protocol on Ireland which live up to the commitments made by both sides to ensure that a hard border will not be reintroduced on the Island of Ireland, no matter the circumstances, as well as the provisions ensuring the UK will remain closely aligned with the EU and within a combined customs territory. These provisions form the core of the proposed backstop as well as the basis for the future EU-UK trading relationship and would go a long way towards minimising the disruption to trade flows and the just-in-time logistics which are central to the operation of agri-food businesses and the all-Ireland agricultural economy.”

Should the deal be agreed, it paves the way for a 21 month “status quo” transition period, allowing trading relations to continue as is and providing businesses with much needed time to prepare for the changing EU-UK relationship. It also offers flexibility for these arrangements to continue until such time as a full agreement can be reached on the terms of the future EU-UK relationship. This is a welcome and necessary step, which would avoid the painstaking uncertainly and cliff edge concerns which have overwhelmed businesses since the UK referendum in June 2016 and which have had a major negative impact on investments as well as resulting in substantial volatility in the Euro-Sterling exchange. This has been particularly evident over the last number of days, with the drop in the value of Sterling in response to the publication of the draft agreement and its reception in the UK and is a renewed cause for concern with regards to business cash flow, as many exporting co-operatives are trading with the UK in Pounds Sterling.

While there is still some clarity needed and significant hurdles remain, we wish to acknowledge the significant efforts of the Irish government and civil services, and the EU and UK negotiating teams in achieving this deal and urge the decisive and swift conclusion of the withdrawal process in order to secure these terms and provide much needed certainty to our co-operative businesses.

 Timeline of Next Steps

23 November Getting Ireland Brexit Ready Workshop: Thomond Park, Limerick https://bit.ly/2BbywkM
25 November EU Leaders Summit: EU leaders will discuss the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the Future Relationship (both attached) and will be asked to endorse them by a qualified majority vote. Political Declaration on Future Relationship Draft Withdrawal Agreement
29 November Copa Cogeca Praesidia & ICOS meeting with EU Chief Negotiator Michael Barnier: Brussels
30 November Getting Ireland Brexit Ready Workshop: Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Donegal https://bit.ly/2qO3ZDx
10 December UK Parliament Vote: The process for UK parliamentary approval with votes in both the House of Commons and House of Lords, will likely begin on the 10 December (with the aim of being completed before the Christmas break – 20 December). A simple majority is needed in both houses to approve the Agreement.
13-14 December EU Leaders Summit: This is the last chance to iron out any differences
16 January Copa Cogeca Brexit Task Force Meeting with EU negotiators: Brussels
11-14 March European Parliament Vote: The Parliament have announced that their vote of consent for the Agreement will take place in Strasbourg on the week of the 11-14 March, however there is now the potential that this could be brought forward slightly. The Parliament must approve the Agreement by a simple majority.
29 March UK leave the EU & the “Status Quo” Transition Period Begins: Dependant on the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement
July 2020 An agreement must be reached by the EU and the UK on what will happen on 1 January 2021, be it:

  1. The full future EU-UK trade and customs relationship comes into force.
  2. The transition period is extended for a specified amount of time (up to 80 years is possible under the terms of the agreement!)
  3. The “backstop solution” would be applied


Terms of the Withdrawal Agreement

Transition: The treaty provides for a “status quo” transition period for the UK, until the end of 2020, whereby EU rules and programmes will continue to apply in full (including the CAP). However, the UK will no longer be a Member State and can no longer participate in the EU’s institutions. International trade agreements negotiated by the EU will continue to apply to the UK (thereby allowing free circulation of goods in the single market) and the EU will ask these trading partners for UK products to continue to be recognised as EU products and be traded under the EU’s negotiated arrangements.

During this time, the EU and UK have committed to using their best endeavours to secure an agreement on their future trading relationship so that it can take effect when the transition period ends on the 1 January 2021. However. if a deal is not reached by July 2020, the EU and UK can jointly decide to extend this transition period for specified amount at time (for any length up to the end of the century)Extending the transition period will however require the UK to negotiate additional payments to the EU budget, however access to EU programmes (including the CAP, Horizon European, etc) will be subject to the rules for all third countries.

 Northern Ireland: A protocol in the treaty makes unique arrangements for Northern Ireland, with the aim of upholding the peace process and avoiding a hard border dividing the island of Ireland.

It guarantees the following:

  • The free circulation of goods across the island of Ireland: To achieve this, the terms of the backstop bind Northern Ireland to the EU’s customs code and single market rules for goods.
  • The free moment of people: The Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK and its associated rights and privileges will continue to apply.
  • Continuation of North-South cooperation: on areas including the environment, agriculture, transport, energy, and inland fisheries (as established under the Good Friday Agreement).

 Backstop: If an agreement on the future EU-UK relationship is not ready to be enforced by the end of the transition period, the EU and UK can jointly decide to either extend the transition period, or to apply a backstop solution, which will remain in place until an agreement on the future EU-UK relationship is ready to be enforced. This “backstop” would mean the following in practice:

  • A single EU-UK customs territory will be established: The UK would be required to keep itself aligned with the EU ‘s tariffs, customs rules and common commercial policy, as well as comply with a series of measures designed to prevent competition distortions (regarding state aid, competition rules, taxation, labour and social protection and environmental protection). This will allow goods to travel freely between both territories without tariffs or checks on rules of origin (with the exception of fisheries and aquaculture products, which will be negotiated within the framework of the future relationship only, together with access to each other waters). It will also prevent the UK from negotiating trade deals with third countries.
  • Northern Ireland would apply the full EU Customs Code and remain aligned to EU Single Market rules for goods: Regulatory alignment will apply to legislation on goods, sanitary rules for veterinary controls, rules on agricultural production/marketing, VAT and excise, and state aid rules. This will ensure that Northern Irish businesses will not face restrictions when placing products on the EU’s Single Market.
  • Regulatory checks would be applied on goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and the rest of the EU: These checks would take place at the point of entry or in the market place. A limited number of checks already take place at the ports and airports for agricultural products entering the island of Ireland from the UK. These would need to be increased in scale (from 10% to 100%).
  • Authorisations by UK authorities for products to be placed on the market, as well as technical regulations, assessments, registrations, certificates and approvals issued by UK authorities or bodies in the UK will be valid for Northern Ireland only: If a Northern Irish business wants to place a product on both the Northern Irish market and the EU Single Market, an authorisation from an EU27 Member State authority or body will additionally be necessary.

The backstop as outlined here, provides a secure and solid basis towards maintaining trade flows and business structures as is and ensuring that Irish co-operatives can continue to operate on an all-Ireland basis. However, should the backstop need to be implemented, it would require further clarity as to the practicalities, specifically regarding regulatory checks between the EU and UK and how they could be conducted on the market place rather than at points of entry.

 Goods placed on the market:  Any good placed on the market in the EU or UK before the end of the transition period can continue to freely circulate on the market until it reaches its end user, without any need for product modifications or re-labelling. However, this will not be the case for the movement of live animals and animal products, which will be subject to new imports and sanitary controls rules following the end of the transition period, regardless of whether they were placed on the market before the end of the transition period (i.e. a step up in the current number of checks conducted from 10% to 100%).

Trademarks: The protection afforded to existing EU intellectual property rights, including trademarks will be maintained in the UK. The conversion of the EU right into a UK right for the purpose of protection in the UK will be automatic, without any re-examination and will be free of cost.

Geographical Indications: Existing EU-approved GIs will be legally protected by the Withdrawal Agreement unless and until a new agreement applying to GIs is concluded in the context of the future relationship agreement. For Ireland, these include Clare Island Salmon, Connemara Hill Lamb, Irish Whiskey; Irish Cream and Irish Poteen; Imokilly Regato; Timoleague Brown Pudding; Waterford Blaa; and Oriel Sea Salt.

Financial settlement: Britain will honour all its financial commitments to Brussels under the current EU multiannual budget (ending in 2020) and any outstanding EU liabilities following this, regarding the European Investment Bank, EU development fund etc. While most of the contributions will be made by 2025, some payments could continue until 2064, notably towards the pensions of EU officials.

Citizen rights: The agreement maintains the existing residence and social security rights of EU citizens in the UK, and UK nationals living in the EU, including the ability to claim permanent residence, most family reunion rights and rights to claim child benefits for example. The UK will be required to pay “due regard” to relevant European court rulings on citizens’ rights.

 Governance: A “Joint Committee”, comprised of both EU and UK representatives, will be established and responsible for the overall implementation and application of the Agreement. It will meet at least once a year, to address disputes and implementation matters, taking decisions on the basis of mutual consent, which have the same force as the rest of the treaty – allowing the treaty provisions to therefore evolve over time. The UK will not be under the direct jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. However, the provisions of the agreement ensure that the ECJ has the final say on any matters of EU law and concepts, ensuring that the same legal effects and principles of interpretation will be applied as in Union law.

For any questions, comments or to be added to the mailing list for future Brexit Briefings, please find my contact details below.

Alison Graham

European Affairs Executive

Irish Co-operative Organisation Society Ltd


Tel: +32 22 31 06 85

Fax: +32 22 31 06 98

Mobile: +32 487 64 86 80

Email: alison.graham@icos.ie

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