Chief Brexit negotiator of the European Union (EU) Michel Barnier unveiled on Wednesday the bloc’s draft Withdrawal Agreement on Brexit, calling on the two sides to accelerate "if we want to succeed in this negotiation."
European Chief Negotiator for the United Kingdom Exiting the European Union Michel Barnier talks to the media at the end of the weekly meeting of the EU Commission, February 28, 2018, in Brussels, Belgium.
However, British Prime Minister Theresa May expressed her disapproval of the deal, arguing that the EU proposal for the Northern Ireland border threatens the "constitutional integrity" of the United Kingdom.
Main points of the EU's draft Brexit document
From Northern Ireland to the "Brexit bill," the EU's draft agreement for Britain's withdrawal from the bloc sets out the terms of the divorce in painstaking detail.
The 120-page document contains 168 main "articles" and several "protocols" in dense legal language covering a huge range of topics. Here are the main points:
The EU has set out a controversial "backstop" in case London fails to come up with a solution to the dilemma of how to keep an invisible border between EU-member Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland.
In a so-called "protocol" to the main agreement, it says Northern Ireland would remain part of a "common regulatory area" with the European Union to avoid border checks on movements across Britain's only land border into Ireland.
"The common regulatory area shall constitute an area without internal borders in which the free movement of goods is ensured and North-South cooperation protected in accordance with this Chapter."
Barnier stressed that it was a fallback and that even if it took effect, it could be scrapped if Britain later came up with a solution.
December 1, 2017: A Brexit Border poster on the Dublin road Co Armagh border, between Newry in Northern Ireland and Dundalk in the Irish Republic.
The agreement also sets out in great detail over several pages exactly how Northern Ireland's membership of the "common regulatory area" would work, including free movement of goods, agriculture, fisheries and electricity.
The EU draft sets out a transition period starting on March 29, 2019, when Britain leaves the bloc, and ends on Dec. 31, 2020.
This ties in with the end of the EU's current seven-year budget. Barnier ruled out a longer period, or an open-ended one, on Tuesday.
It says that "union law shall be applicable to and in the United Kingdom during the transition period," but adds that it will have no "institutional rights" – i.e. no policy making power.
The EU has also included a controversial paragraph saying that it could "suspend certain benefits deriving for the United Kingdom from participation in the internal market" if it breaches the terms of the transition.
The European Court of Justice, the bloc's top court, "shall have jurisdiction" over disputes with Britain relating to the withdrawal agreement, the EU draft says.
Judgments by the Luxembourg ECJ made before the end of the transition period "shall have binding force in their entirety" on Britain, it adds.
Both of these are likely to be opposed by Britain which has set freedom from the ECJ as one of its red lines.
The agreement sets out the rights of European expatriates living and working in Britain, and British citizens living and working in the EU after Brexit.
On both sides, if they have been living in another country for at least five years by Brexit day, then they can carry on doing so indefinitely.
The EU draft says Europeans who move to Britain during the post-Brexit transition period should also have the right to stay. Britain disputes this.
British citizens currently living in an EU country would not be able to move to another EU country after Brexit, it says.
The EU draft says Britain will "contribute to and participate" in the bloc's budgets for 2019 and 2020, which covers the transition period.
It will also meet other financial commitments relating to its four-decade membership of the bloc.
An actual figure for the so-called "Brexit bill" is conspicuous by its absence, but Britain has said it adds up to 35-39 billion British Pounds (40-45 billion euros, 47-52 billion US dollars).
Theresa May's strongly disapproval
Answering questions in the Commons less than an hour after the publication of the text, May told MPs that "the draft legal text the Commission have published would, if implemented, undermine the UK common market and threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK by creating a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea, and no UK prime minister could ever agree to it."
Prime Minister Theresa May leaves No. 10 Downing Street ahead of the weekly PMQ session, February 28, 2018, in London, England.
"I will be making it crystal clear to (European Commission) President Juncker and others that we will never do so."
She said she stood by the deal struck in December, but left no doubt that she wants the withdrawal text rewritten, stating that British negotiators would talk to Brussels about how the Joint Report "should be translated into legal form in the withdrawal agreement."