Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex
IntroductionIt’s not certain, at time of writing, whether the Brexit withdrawal agreement will be approved or not. But the UK Parliament is about to vote again on the issue, following the recent agreement on a new version of the agreement – with a revised Protocol on the Irish border (for a full text of the revised withdrawal agreement following this change, see here) and a revised political declaration on the future relationship. (There was already a minor amendment to the text agreed in April, after UK membership was extended for several months: the text of the agreement as it stood after that is here.) So this is an opportune time to update my previous overview of the first version of the withdrawal agreement.
This blog post is a summary and explanation of the text for non-lawyers. It outlines the structure of the agreement and the main content of each part of it in turn. It does not aim to be exhaustive, but only to give a broad indication of what the revised agreement entails. I have also updated my blog post on the transition period, and I aim to update my other blog posts on the previous version of the withdrawal agreement (on citizens’ rights and dispute settlement) and on the related political declaration shortly.
Throughout the blog post, I’ve scattered the answers to ‘key questions’ which have been raised about what the revised withdrawal agreement does. Let’s start with this question, in light of the imminent vote on the withdrawal agreement:
Key question: What if the withdrawal agreement is not ratified?If Parliament this week votes against ratifying the withdrawal agreement, and also votes against leaving the EU with no deal, then the provisions of the ‘Benn Act’ kick in, requiring the Prime Minister to request a three-month extension of EU membership. I discussed the workings of that Act in detail here. It’s possible that the EU refuses to extend membership, in which case the UK leaves with no deal on October 31, unless it decides to revoke its notification to leave the EU, which is possible unilaterally (as confirmed by the CJEU, and discussed here). There’s also a legal challenge to ratification at this point.