On 28 February the EU27 produced a draft Withdrawal Agreement about which many have already written. Notably the UK had not previously produced its own draft (lawyers generally like to produce first drafts of documents as it gives control of the negotiation to them). To those of us unfortunate enough to live and breathe Brexit on a daily basis, there was little surprising contained within, and it merely reflected in legal form the principles contained in the December Joint Report.
In response to the draft agreement the key point of contention in the UK was the issue of the Irish border. Some slightly inflammatory language from the EU27 didn’t help calm choppy waters and led to accusations from some that the EU was seeking to “annex” Northern Ireland. Essentially the EU27 asserted the default of a “common regulatory area” between Northern Ireland and Ireland (i.e. Northern Ireland staying inside the Customs Union and Single Market) unless the UK could come up with a plausible alternative: either a very soft Brexit or the deployment of cutting-edge technology to eliminate the need for a hard border. Continue Reading