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Key aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement include:

  • The maintenance of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK.
  • Regulatory alignment on agricultural products and industrial goods (note that this does not extend to services).
  • NI will benefit from both membership of the EU’s Customs Union and membership of the UK’s Customs territory.
  • NI will remain part of the UK VAT area but EU VAT rules concerning goods will continue to apply in NI.
  • An all Island Single Electricity Market will be maintained.

The above elements of the Withdrawal Agreement are designed to achieve frictionless trade on the Island of Ireland and maintain North-South cooperation.

Transition

The transition period will run from the date the UK leaves the EU until 31 December 2020.  During the transition period, the status quo will essentially be maintained, however the UK will have no role in EU decision making.

The UK and EU may agree to a single extension to this transition period of up to one or two years and, if so, would need to do so before 1 July 2020. The decision will be made by a “joint committee” comprising representatives of the EU and the UK.

The “Joint Committee”

A “joint committee” will be established comprising representatives of the EU and the UK.  The joint committee will play a key role in finalising issues included in the Protocol and indeed the Withdrawal Agreement more generally.  For example, key issues like determining NI compliance with EU regulatory alignment, ensuring that the Protocol operates as intended, determining criteria for whether goods entering the UK will be at risk of entering the EU Customs Union and ensuring that checks on goods moving between GB and NI can be kept to a minimum. As such, the decisions of the joint committee will have a direct impact on issues relating to moving goods between GB and NI both in terms of logistics and paperwork.