As the UK`s Brexit deadline looms, the withdrawal agreement remains a key issue of concern. The agreement is meant to formalize the UK`s exit from the European Union, but it has been a source of controversy ever since it was first proposed. Here are some of the key issues surrounding the withdrawal agreement:
1. The Irish border: One of the main sticking points in the withdrawal agreement is the Irish border. The EU has insisted that there must be no “hard border” between Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (which is an EU member state). However, finding a solution that satisfies both sides has proven difficult. Any agreement that would create a hard border risks reigniting tensions that have been simmering since the Troubles, while any solution that doesn`t create a hard border risks undermining the integrity of the EU`s single market.
2. The “backstop”: In an attempt to resolve the Irish border issue, the withdrawal agreement includes a “backstop” provision. This would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU until a better solution is found. However, many UK politicians object to the backstop, as it would potentially keep the UK tied to the EU for years to come. Some have suggested alternative solutions, such as a technological solution or a Canada-style free trade agreement, but none of these proposals have gained much traction.
3. Future trade relations: The withdrawal agreement is primarily concerned with the UK`s exit from the EU, but it also lays the groundwork for future trade relations between the two sides. However, the terms of that future relationship have yet to be negotiated. The UK government has said that it wants a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU, but the EU has warned that this will not be possible without the UK agreeing to certain conditions, such as maintaining regulatory alignment with the EU.
4. The role of the European Court of Justice: Another contentious issue is the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Brexit. The withdrawal agreement allows for the ECJ to continue to have jurisdiction over certain matters, such as citizens` rights, during a transition period. However, many UK politicians object to this, arguing that it would mean the UK continuing to be subject to the authority of a foreign court.
5. The UK`s financial obligations: Finally, there is the issue of the UK`s financial obligations to the EU. The withdrawal agreement sets out a “divorce bill” that the UK must pay to settle its outstanding financial obligations to the EU. The exact amount of this bill is disputed, with estimates ranging from €40 billion to €100 billion. Some UK politicians have argued that the UK should not have to pay anything, as it has been a net contributor to the EU budget for many years.
In conclusion, the withdrawal agreement is a complex and contentious issue that will continue to shape UK politics for years to come. While there have been some indications of progress in recent weeks, many obstacles still remain. It remains to be seen whether a satisfactory solution can be found that will satisfy both the UK and the EU.