Brexit breakthrough: Divorce deal agreed after compromises on Irish border and EU citizens

  • Brexit breakthrough as EU says 'sufficient progress' has been made

  • Theresa May appears alongside Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels 

  • PM says deal would ensure 'no hard border' in Ireland

  • European Council President Donald Tusk says talks to move to trade

  • DUP secured 'six substantive changes' to the text on the Irish border

  • Reaction: Nigel Farage says 'deal is not acceptable'

  • Brexit agreement in full: Read the report published after phase one of talks​

The European Commission has announced that "sufficient progress" has been made in the first phase of Brexit talks and discussions can now move onto trade.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, appeared alongside Theresa May this morning where he announced they had made the "breakthrough we needed."

He said: "We can now start looking towards the future — a future in which the UK will be a close ally."

The Prime Minister said the latest Brexit deal was a "significant  improvement" which had required give and take on both sides.

She said that it included a financial settlement which was "fair to the British taxpayer" and a guarantee that there will be "no hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic, preserving the "constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom".

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) is welcomed by European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker - Credit: AFP/EMMANUEL DUNAND
British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) is welcomed by European Commission Jean-Claude JunckerCredit: AFP/EMMANUEL DUNAND

Mrs May said the deal would guarantee the rights of three million EU citizens in the UK "enshrined in UK law and enforced by British courts".

It comes after diplomats worked overnight to hammer out a Brexit agreement on maintaining a soft Irish border.

A mooted agreement between the UK and EU was torpedoed on Monday by the DUP after the party objected to plans for "regulatory alignment" between Northern Ireland and the Republic to maintain a soft border between the two.

Arlene Foster, the party's leader, has told Sky News secured “six substantive changes” to the text on the Irish border.

She said: "There is no red line down the Irish sea and clear confirmation that the entirety of the UK is leaving the Europen Union, leaving the single market and leaving the customs union."

Mrs May and David Davis are in Brussels where they have met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

The Prime Minister and her Brexit Secretary arrived at the Berlaymont shortly before 7am Brussels time (6am GMT) on Friday morning.

Mr Juncker's head of  cabinet Martin Selmayr tweeted a photograph of white smoke gushing from the  chimney of the Sistine Chapel - the traditional way of signalling that a new  Pope has been chosen.

The agreement will be signed off by all EU leaders at next week’s European Council summit.

On Thursday evening, Mrs May spoke to European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker, after he had phoned Irish PM Leo Varadkar.

Follow the latest news here. 

8:14AM

'Devil is in the detail'

8:10AM

What's happened to Irish question?

James Crisp, our Brussels Correspondent, has taken a look:

“Regulatory alignment”, the phrase that so enraged the DUP and Brexiteers, has been replaced in the joint text with “no new regulatory barriers”.

Tellingly, regulatory divergence - when new UK laws change or move away from EU regulation -  will be allowed in Northern Ireland,  but only if Stormont decides.

This is the chance of language that may have convinced the DUP to back the deal:

In the absence of agreed solutions, as set out in the previous paragraph, the United Kingdom will ensure that no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, unless, consistent with the 1998 Agreement, the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree that distinct arrangements are appropriate for Northern Ireland.

In all circumstances, the United Kingdom will continue to ensure the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland's businesses to the whole of the United Kingdom internal market.

Here is the sting in the tail on the Irish question: The UK promises to avoid a hard border through its overall future relationship with the EU. If that isn’t possible, it undertakes to provide “specific solutions” to prevent the hard border.

If agreed solutions aren’t found, Britain, has promised to maintain full regulatory alignment with Single Market and Customs Union rules that protect the Good Friday Agreement, support North-South cooperation and the all-island economy.

8:07AM

'Citizens can now be confident about the rights they enjoy'

David Davis ,Brexit Secretary, said on Twitter: "Today is a big step forward in delivering Brexit. Been a lot of work but glad the Commission have now recommended that sufficient progress has been reached.

"Citizens can now be confident about the rights they enjoy; we should now move forward to discuss our future relationship with the EU on issues like trade and security."

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, tweeted: "Delighted we've reached an agreement which will give both Europeans here in the UK and British citizens in the EU binding guarantees about their residence rights.

"I hope this will now give those concerned real peace of mind. We are building a new system so that the application process will be smooth and simple. For now, EU citizens in the UK, do not need to do anything."

7:55AM

Irish government to give a presser...

7:40AM

Tusk: So much time devoted to the 'easier part'

Donald Tusk, the European Council President, has made a statement.

He says the deal is "the personal success of Theresa May".

But he warns that "so much time has been devoted to the easier part" of discussing the terms of Britain's exit from the EU.

He says:

The most difficult challenge is still ahead.

Breaking up is hard, but breaking up and building up a new relation is much harder.

7:38AM

Deal 'fully protects' the Good Friday Agreement

Simon Coveney, Ireland's deputy prime minister, said the government was content at assurances it had achieved about avoiding a hard border. He said there was now "no scenario" that would result in new border checkpoints.

"Ireland supports Brexit negotiations moving to phase two now that we have secured assurances for all on the island of Ireland," he said.

He said the deal "fully protected" the Good Friday Agreement, the peace process and an all-Ireland economy.

7:31AM

What does the deal mean for citizens rights?

James Crisp, our Brussels Correspondent, has taken a look:

The cut-off date for EU citizens to be covered by the Withdrawl Agreement will be Brexit Day. A win for the EU.

The UK government must bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill. This will fully incorporate EU citizens’ rights into UK law. This is a draw.

UK courts must have “due regard” to the relevant decisions of the European Court of Justice on matters of EU law concerning citizens’ rights. A win for the EU because the ECJ will continue to have influence over British courts.

The Withdrawal Agreement will establish a mechanism which will enable British courts to ask the ECJ , if relevant legal precedents exists,  for clarification on points of EU law. This mechanism should last for litigation brought within eight years from Brexit Day. A win for May. The influence will be limited.

This should be further supported by exchange of case law between the courts and “regular judicial dialogue”. Both the British government and the European Commission will have the right to intervene in citizens’ rights cases in UK courts and the ECJ. A win for the EU.

Systematic criminal and security checks can be carried out on EU citizens, when they apply for status under the agreement. This is win for May.

British people in the EU will continue to be benefit from the European Health Insurance Card scheme as long as they stay in the country. This is a win for May.

EU citizens living in Britain can be joined by family members, including unborn children and partners in “a durable relationship” in UK.  This is a win for the EU.

7:26AM

Praise for the PM

7:18AM

Ireland: We achieved all our goals

Our Brexit Correspondent James Rothwell has some Irish reaction Senior Irish official:

We achieved all our goals in phase one of the negotiations, including preserving Common Travel Area, protecting Good Friday Agreement and, crucially, obtaining a guarantee there will be no hard border.

7:14AM

Theresa May's full statement on Northern Ireland

Here is the Prime Minister's full statement on "six commitments to Northern Ireland".

Today I agreed a joint report between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the European Union on the progress of our negotiations.

This covered the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens in the EU; our financial settlement with the EU; and ruling out a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

This progress now enables the UK Government to move to the next phase of negotiations. This next phase will focus on securing the deep and special partnership between the United Kingdom and European Union that we all want to see.

As a Prime Minister who hugely values Northern Ireland's position within our United Kingdom - and believes passionately that the United Kingdom is stronger and better together - I want to set out six key commitments to Northern Ireland, principles that have guided me in the negotiations with the EU.

These commitments are consistent with our steadfast support for the Belfast Agreement and its successors; the principles that underpin them; the institutions they establish; and, the rights and opportunities they guarantee for everyone.

This Government will continue to govern in the interests of the whole community in Northern Ireland and uphold the Agreements that have underpinned the huge progress that has been made over the past two decades.

First, we will always uphold and support Northern Ireland's status as an integral part of the United Kingdom, consistent with the principle of consent.

The Government I lead will never be neutral when it comes to expressing our support for the Union.

Second, we will fully protect and maintain Northern Ireland's position within the single market of the United Kingdom. This is by far the most important market for Northern Ireland's goods and services and you will continue to have full and unfettered access to it.

Third, there will be no new borders within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In addition to no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, we will maintain the Common Travel Area throughout these islands.

Fourth, the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, will leave the EU customs union and the EU single market. Nothing in the agreement I have reached alters that fundamental fact.

Fifth, we will uphold the commitments and safeguards set out in the Belfast Agreement regarding North-South Co-operation. This will continue to require cross-community support.

Sixth, the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, will no longer be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

These negotiations are crucial for the future of Northern Ireland and the whole United Kingdom. Whether you voted Leave or Remain, I am determined to deliver an outcome that works in the best interests of everyone across the United Kingdom.

7:10AM

Nigel Farage: The deal is not acceptable

Christopher Hope has tracked down "Mr Brexit" aka Nigel Farage.

He is not happy.

Former Ukip leader tells The Telegraph:

The European Court of Justice will be the ultimate arbiter of EU citizens’ rights. This is not acceptable.

7:04AM

What about EU citizens rights?

7:02AM

Settlement will be 'fair to the British taxpayer'

The Prime Minister said that the agreement would guarantee the rights of three million EU citizens in the UK "enshrined in UK law and enforced by British courts".

She said that it included a financial settlement which was "fair to the British taxpayer" and a guarantee that there will be "no hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic, preserving the "constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom".

She said that the agreement between the UK and the Commission, being published in a joint report, would offer "welcome certainty" to businesses.

7:00AM

What is in the deal?

6:57AM

UK will maintain 'full alignment'

6:43AM

'I believe we have made the breakthrough we needed'

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, is now giving a press statement.

He says:

I would like to thank PM for her determination.

I believe we have made the breakthrough we needed.

I will always be sad about this development, but now we must start looking to the future, a future in which the UK will remain a close friend and ally.

The joint report is not the withdrawal agreement. That agreement needs to be drafted by the negotiators on the basis we have agreed yesterday and today and then approved by the Council and ratified by the UK Parliament and European Parliament.

It is crucial for us all that we continue working closely together on issues such as trade, research, security and others.

European Commission says:

The European Commission has today recommended to the European Council (Article 50) to conclude that sufficient progress has been made in the first phase of the Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom. It is now for the European Council (Article 50) on 15 December 2017 to decide if sufficient progress has been made, allowing the negotiations to proceed to their second phase.

The Commission’s assessment is based on a Joint Report agreed by the negotiators of the Commission and the United Kingdom Government, which was today endorsed by Prime Minister Theresa May during a meeting with President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The Commission is satisfied that sufficient progress has been achieved in each of the three priority areas of citizens’ rights, the dialogue on Ireland / Northern Ireland, and the financial settlement, as set out in the European Council Guidelines of 29 April 2017.

The Commission’s negotiator has ensured that the life choices made by EU citizens living in the United Kingdom will be protected.

The rights of EU citizens living in the United Kingdom and United Kingdom citizens in the EU27 will remain the same after the United Kingdom has left the EU. The Commission has also made sure that any administrative procedures will be cheap and simple for EU citizens in the United Kingdom.

As regards the financial settlement, the United Kingdom has agreed that commitments taken by the EU28 will be honoured by the EU28, including the United Kingdom.

With regard to the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom acknowledges the unique situation on the island of Ireland and has made significant commitments to avoid a hard border.

6:38AM

'Happy enough'

6:34AM

'DUP happy enough'

6:29AM

What's going on?

Here is the timetable this morning, from our Brussels correspondent James Crisp:

6:30am Juncker and May press conference

7am Theresa May meets Donald Tusk

7.30am Donald Tusk statement

7.30am European Parliament's Brexit Steering Group meets.

6:17AM

Juncker's chief of staff tweets...

Martin Selmayr , Juncker's head of cabinet, has tweeted a picture of white smoke. Yesterday commission spokesman said "we have no white smoke yet"

6:12AM

Arlene Foster says DUP secured '6 substantive changes'

Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, has told Sky News secured “six substantive changes” to the text on the Irish border.

She revealed she has been “negotiating directly with the Prime Minister” and working “right into the early hours” of this morning.

She says:

There is no red line down the Irish sea and clear confirmation that the entirety of the UK is leaving the Europen Union, leaving the single market and leaving the customs union.

She added that there was "still some concern", but Theresa May has "made judgment call to proceed in the national interest."

6:03AM

Theresa May arrives

5:52AM

Jean-Claude Juncker arrives

 

5:37AM

May-Juncker meeting confirmed

Original statement said Mrs May and Mr Juncker were "likely" to meet at 6am and that confirmation would come half an hour beforehand. Now we have confirmation from Mina Andreeva, deputy chief spokeswoman for Mr Juncker.

5:34AM

A short night

Not much sleep for anyone. This is Theresa May's chief of staff.

 

5:26AM

Confirmation from Number 10

Theresa May and David Davis are on their way to Brussels to meet with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

The Prime Minister and her Brexit Secretary are expected to arrive at the Berlaymont shortly before 7am Brussels time (6am GMT) on Friday morning, a Downing Street spokeswoman said.

5:22AM

Union Flag makes an appearance

 

5:18AM

Lights on

 

5:17AM

Meeting and news conference expected

Theresa May is "likely" to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at 7 am (0600 GMT) in Brussels on Friday, the EU executive said in a statement.

It said there would be confirmation of any meeting at around 6:30 am and that a meeting would be followed by a news conference around 7:30 am to 8 am.

The two sides have been negotiating through the night to reach a deal on Brexit divorce terms that could open the way for talks on Britain's future trading relationship with the bloc.

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