The European Union formally approved a divorce agreement with Britain, the first country to leave the 28-nation bloc.
The agreement consists of a legally binding withdrawal agreement, with more than 580 pages, and a 26 page policy statement on future relations.
Some main points:
Britain will leave the EU on March 29, but will remain within the bloc's single market and will be subject to its rules by the end of December 2020, while the two sides develop a new business relationship. The transitional period may be extended for up to two years before 1 July 2020 if it is decided that more time is required.
Irish border: The agreement compromises both sides with a "guaranteed" solution to ensure that the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, an EU member, remains free of customs posts or other obstacles. It maintains the UK in a customs agreement with the EU and will last until it is replaced by new permanent trade agreements. Both sides say they expect to have a new agreement in place by the end of 2020, so backstop is never necessary.
Divorce Account: Britain agrees to pay about £ 39 billion ($ 73.7 billion) to cover pension contributions and commitments to EU programs that the UK has made as a member of the funding period running through 2020.
Rights of citizens: EU citizens living in Britain and the British elsewhere in the bloc will continue to have the right to live and work.
The two sides are committed to "an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership in all commercial and economic cooperation, law enforcement and criminal justice, foreign policy, security and defense and broader areas of cooperation." But many of the details will only be resolved after Britain leaves the EU on 29 March.
Trade: Britain and the EU are pursuing a "comprehensive" economic relationship, including a free trade area. There will be a common customs regime to provide duty free trade, and the two sides undertake to "build and perfect" the temporary single customs territory established in the withdrawal agreement. The UK "will consider alignment with Union rules in relevant areas". But the document acknowledges that proximity will be limited by the EU's need to protect the integrity of its single market and by the British's desire for an independent trade policy.
Irish border: Britain and the EU are committed to replacing the "setback" with a permanent solution "to establish alternative mechanisms to ensure the absence of a difficult border on the island of Ireland." This could include technological solutions not yet developed.
Financial services: The two sides should explore whether they can declare the other's regulatory regimes as "equivalent" in order to facilitate cross-border financial services. They should aim to complete their assessments by the end of June 2020.
Fishing: One of the most controversial issues – who has access to the territorial waters of the UK and EU – is postponed. The statement says only that the two sides should "establish a new fisheries agreement", ideally by July 1, 2020.
Safety: Both sides will try to keep police cooperation at the same level today, "to the extent technically and legally possible." There should be "timely exchanges of sensitive information and intelligence between relevant Union bodies and the UK authorities".
Trip: Citizens of the UK and EU will not need visas for short visits.
The biggest obstacle to the implementation of the agreement reached yesterday will be the next vote in the British Parliament. This vote is expected before Christmas and will probably be preceded by days of passionate debate in the House of Commons. Prime Minister Theresa May is lobbying hard for approval, but faces a difficult battle in Parliament, in part because her own Conservative Party contains a group of disgruntled lawmakers who say they will oppose the deal. The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, which generally supports the government, is also opposed to the agreement, as are the leaders of the main opposition party, the Labor Party, and the much more liberal Democrats. May has several weeks to receive support. European leaders are convinced that they will no longer make concessions to facilitate Parliament's approval.