The EU and the UK have reached an interim agreement on the “ambitious” relationship that they hope to build after Brexit, but the talks on their divorce are still far from over. The fate of the enclave of Gibraltar and the question of the future fishing rights of Europeans in British waters are among the remaining issues to be resolved at a special summit on Sunday. Following a quick visit by Prime Minister Theresa May to Brussels, a 26-page draft “political declaration” prepared by the two teams of negotiators was sent to European capitals.
This text was “agreed at the level of the negotiators and accepted in principle at the political level, subject to the approval of leaders” announced the President of the European Council Donald Tusk. The document will be attached to the “withdrawal treaty” of the United Kingdom, which was already agreed last week between the two parties. It “sets the parameters for an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership” in trade, foreign policy, defence and security, according to the text.
The two negotiating teams also agreed that the post-Brexit transition period could be extended for up to two years after the end of 2020, the date originally stipulated in the withdrawal treaty. During this transition, the United Kingdom will continue to apply EU rules and contribute financially, without however participating in the bloc’s decision making process, much to the chagrin of Brexteers.
The announcement of agreement immediately caused the British pound to rise against the dollar. “It’s the right deal for the UK, it’s implementing the result of the June 2016 referendum,” Theresa May told reporters, before making a statement to MPs in the afternoon.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that there is still a long way to go to reach a final agreement on Brexit. “We have already made progress, but there will certainly be a lot of further discussion, especially in the UK,” she said in a discussion with German entrepreneurs. “The questions of Gibraltar and fisheries” must “still be resolved,” admitted Thursday to the press the spokesman of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas. Spain has threatened to oppose any agreement on Brexit this Sunday if it does not get receive the guarantee of a veto over future negotiations on the British enclave of Gibraltar.
The sensitive issues of the future access of European fleets to UK territorial waters also continue to cause tension. Countries such as France insist that the link between future access to the European market for fish caught by the British and access to British territorial waters for Europeans be clearly stated.