Brexit Briefing: Where Are We?

The Chequers Brexit Plan as put forward by the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon Theresa May MP - 11th July 2018

Today at Chequers the Cabinet agreed a comprehensive and detailed proposal that provides a precise, responsible and credible basis for progressing negotiations towards a new relationship with the EU after we leave next March. 

The EU’s position implies that two models of relationship are currently available to the United Kingdom. Neither works.

The first is a standard Free Trade Agreement for Great Britain, with Northern Ireland carved off in the EU’s customs union and elements of the single market, separated from the United Kingdom’s own internal market. This is unacceptable to us as Unionists.

The second would, effectively, be membership of the EEA and the Customs Union. This would not deliver on the referendum result. It would mean continued free movement, continued payment of vast sums every year for market access, continued obligation to follow the great bulk of EU law and no ability to strike our own trade deals.

So we need to shift the EU to consider a third model. And this new model must provide for the friction-free movement of goods, because that is the only way to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and to protect jobs across the United Kingdom that depend on just-in-time supply chains.

The Government statement attached to this letter sets out how the Cabinet has collectively agreed to evolve our position.

We are proposing that the framework for our relationship with the European Union should be an Association Agreement. There would be a ministerial Governing Body, which would set the direction for the future relationship and determine how and when changes were necessary.

So the proposal the Cabinet has agreed today delivers on the referendum result with a Brexit deal for Britain:

  1. Leaving the EU on 29th March 2019
  2. Ending free movement and taking back control of our borders
  3. No more sending vast sums of money each year to the EU
  4. A new business friendly customs model with freedom to strike new trade deals around the world
  5. UK-EU free trade area with a common rulebook for industrial goods and agricultural products which will be good for jobs
  6. Commitment to maintain high standards on consumer and employment rights and the environment
  7. Parliamentary lock on all new rules and regulations
  8. Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy
  9. Restoring the supremacy of British courts by ending the jurisdiction of the ECJ in the UK
  10. No hard border between NI and Ireland or between NI and GB
  11. Continued close cooperation on security to keep our people safe
  12. An independent foreign and defence policy working closely with the EU and other allies


As we said in our general election manifesto, the negotiations will undoubtedly be tough, and there will be give and take on both sides’. This is a development of our position, but it does so in a way that is consistent with the commitments we laid out in our 2017 Manifesto:

‘As we leave the European Union, we will no longer be members of the single market or customs union but we will seek a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement. There may be specific European programmes in which we might want to participate and if so, it will be reasonable that we make a contribution. We will determine a fair settlement of the UK’s rights and obligations as a departing member state, in accordance with the law and in the spirit of the UK’s continuing partnership with the EU. The principle, however, is clear: the days of Britain making vast annual contributions to the European Union will end.

‘We want fair, orderly negotiations, minimising disruption and giving as much certainty as possible – so both sides benefit. We believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside our withdrawal, reaching agreement on both within the two years allowed by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.’

During the EU referendum campaign collective responsibility on EU policy was temporarily suspended. As we developed our policy on Brexit I have allowed cabinet colleagues to express their individual views. Agreement on this proposal marks the point where that is no longer the case and collective responsibility is now fully restored.

It remains the Government’s firm view that it is in the best interests of both sides to reach agreement on a good and sustainable future relationship. But the Cabinet also concluded that it was responsible to continue preparations for a range of potential outcomes, including the possibility of ‘no deal’. Given the short period remaining before the necessary conclusion of negotiations this autumn, the Cabinet agreed preparations should be stepped up.

On the basis of this proposal, the Government will charge the UK’s negotiating team to engage with the EU’s at pace, working to agree the terms of our future relationship alongside the Withdrawal Agreement later this year.

With this Brexit deal, we can deliver on the referendum result, secure a brighter future for the UK, and truly make it a country that works for everyone. 

Rt Hon. Theresa May MP

Prime Minister


Brexit Briefing 2: 27 March 2018

On 22 March 2018, the Prime Minister attended the EU Council meeting. Earlier in the week the UK and EU negotiating teams reached agreement on the terms of an implementation period that will start on 30 March 2019 and last until 31 December 2020.

The deal reached aims to protect our economic and security cooperation, and contains a number of key aims:

  • We will be free to negotiate, ratify and sign trade deals with new partners, while continuing to benefit from the EU’s existing agreements during the period. The UK will also be able to prepare for its future arrangements in respect of fishing opportunities through specific consultation and engagement mechanisms.
  • We will bring into force ambitious new arrangements on foreign policy and defence cooperation as soon as possible - and the UK will be able to choose not to apply EU decisions we disagree with. We will be able to join new security measures where it makes sense to do so, bridging to the future security partnership.
  • On dispute resolution. The Withdrawal Agreement will be underpinned by a duty of good faith, with a Joint Committee in place enabling either side to raise issues or concerns. These arrangements will help ensure that the implementation period works properly for both sides.
  • On Citizens rights. We have reached an important settlement. From the start of the implementation period, we will be able to register those arriving in order to help prepare for our future immigration system. This will be a notable difference to how things are now. We have also secured a reciprocal deal, which secures the rights of citizens on both sides up to the end of the period.
  • On Northern Ireland. Both sides stand by the commitments they have made to avoid a hard border while protecting the integrity of the UK internal market. We agreed to faithfully translate all these commitments, including the 'backstop' solution, into legal text.

CONTROVERSY: Will we leave the Common Fisheries Policy and take back control of our waters?

We have secured safeguards in the agreement to protect the interests of British fishermen. The revised text clarifies that the UK’s share of catch cannot be reduced during the implementation period and that the UK can attend international negotiations. Furthermore, the agreement includes an obligation on both sides to act in good faith throughout the implementation period. Any attempts by the EU to harm the UK fishing industry would breach that obligation. In December 2020 we will be negotiating fishing opportunities as a third country and independent coastal state, deciding who can access our waters and on what terms for the first time in over 40 years.  


Brexit Briefing 1

Brexit is the defining issue of this Parliament, probably the defining issue of the decade. It is complicated and intense, just like any negotiation, and there will be ups and downs and we must be prepared for that. Whether people voted Leave or Remain, we need a Brexit deal that works for the whole country and for it to happen as smoothly as possible.

Phase one of the EU UK agreement has been completed. The agreement secures the rights of the three million EU citizens living here and the million British citizens living in the EU, and represents a fair settlement of the accounts.

We will maintain the Common Travel Area with Ireland, which has operated since the 1920s, and this agreement sets out both sides’ determination to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, while respecting the integrity of the UK single market. This is now a good deal for citizens, for taxpayers and for all parts of the United Kingdom that will allow us to get on to the vital trade negotiations and get quick agreement to an implementation period in the best interests of people and businesses in the UK as we leave EU.

But it must be remembered nothing is yet written down in stone. In the Government’s own words: ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’.

Talks are now moving on to future relations - and a plan for a two-year "transition" period to smooth the way to post-Brexit relations.

Both the UK and the EU are keen on the idea of there being a period of time after 29 March, 2019, to get everything in place and allow businesses and others to prepare for the moment when the new post-Brexit rules between the UK and the EU begin. It also allows more time for the details of the new relationship to be fully hammered out. The EU wants the transition period - during which they think things should continue pretty much as they do now - to last until 31 December 2020.

The UK wants a slightly longer period of "about two years," or "as long as it takes" to set up new systems. Free movement looks set to continue during that period and the UK may have to abide by new laws from Brussels, without any input in how they are created. Again, a final agreement has yet to be reached, however.

Do we yet know how everything is going to pan out in the long term? The blunt answer to that is NO.

Negotiations about future relations between the UK and the EU will start if and when the transitional phase has been agreed. Both sides hope that can be done in March, to allow six months of talks to agree the outline of future relations on things like trade, travel and security. If all goes to plan this deal could then be given the go ahead by both sides in time for 29 March 2019. Theresa May delivered a big speech setting out her thoughts on the UK and EU's future relations on 2 March, 2018.

I will keep you updated as the Brexit negotiations progress.