EU leaders sign-off Brexit deal

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Leaders of EU27 gave their formal approval to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, Political Declaration on the future UK-EU relationship and accompanying declarations.

This marks a significant milestone in the Brexit process.

In the run up to the formal approval there were some clarifications, including on the extension of the Brexit transition period: the agreed text now says that before 1 July 2020 the EU and UK will be able to make a one-off decision to extend the transition period by “up to one or two years”.

The European farmers’ organisation, Copa, welcomed “a new step forward” in the process and called for both the European and UK parliaments to support the deal, to ensure a no-deal Brexit is avoided.

In advance of the summit, the UK farming unions released a joint statement that “while not perfect” the Withdrawal Agreement protects trade in agricultural goods and that the “opportunity needs to be taken.”

A vote in the UK’s parliament is expected in December, with a vote in the European Parliament expected in February or early March 2019.

Political Declaration sets out basis of future UK-EU relationship

The outline of a future UK-EU relationship was published on Thursday as a Political Declaration and was signed-off by EU27 leaders on Sunday. This includes economic aspects crucial for the future of agri-food trade and farm business incomes.

The UK and EU agreed to negotiate a trading relationship which is “as close as possible” including a “free trade area” with “ambitious customs arrangements” and “no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors”.

The alignment of regulations will be guided by the principle of a “level playing field for open and fair competition”, with the declaration providing for the UK to “consider aligning with Union rules in relevant areas.”

NFU President Minette Batters stated that the declaration “contains much I believe we can support,” while highlighting areas requiring further clarification such as the impact of potential regulatory divergence and the details of the proposed customs arrangements.

The Political Declaration calls for both parties to now undertake preparatory work to enable “rapid commencement of and progress in formal negotiations” once the UK has left the EU.