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Brexit Negotiations

Current State of Play

On 29 March 2017, the United Kingdom notified the European Council of its intention to leave the European Union, in accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This triggered the start of a two year negotiation, also known as the Article 50 process.  The objective of the negotiations is to agree the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU in an orderly manner.

Negotiations have been taking place on a phased basis, with the first phase of negotiations primarily addressing three main baskets of withdrawal issues:

  1. guaranteeing citizens’ rights (EU citizens currently living in the UK and UK citizens currently living in the EU);
  2. settling the UK’s financial commitments;
  3. Ireland and Northern Ireland specific issues.

On 14 November 2018, the European Commission and United Kingdom reached agreement at negotiators’ level on the entirety of the Withdrawal Agreement and on an outline of the Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relationship. 

On 25 November 2018, the European Council endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and approved the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship.

European Council Brexit Negotiations 960 x 640

What is in the Withdrawal Agreement?

The Withdrawal Agreement establishes the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU. It ensures that the withdrawal will happen in an orderly manner and offers legal certainty once the Treaties and EU law cease to apply to the UK. The Withdrawal Agreement covers all elements of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU including citizens’ rights, the financial settlement, a transition period, Protocols on Gibraltar and Cyprus, as well as a range of other separation issues.

The Withdrawal Agreement includes a Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland and a legally operational backstop to ensure that there will be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. It also contains UK commitments not to diminish rights set out in the Good Friday Agreement 1998 and recognises that people in Northern Ireland will continue to enjoy EU citizenship rights, and to protect North South cooperation. It provides for the maintenance of the Common Travel Area arrangements between Ireland and the UK, and preserves the Single Electricity Market on the island of Ireland.

The European Commission has published fact sheets on both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

You can watch and read the Taoiseach’s statement of 14 November 2018 on the Withdrawal Agreement.

What will happen next?

Now that the Withdrawal Agreement has been endorsed by the European Council (Article 50), and before it can enter into force, it needs to be ratified by the EU and the UK. For the EU, the Council of the European Union must authorise the signature of the Withdrawal Agreement, before sending it to the European Parliament for its consent, upon which the Council of the European Union can formally conclude the Withdrawal Agreement. The United Kingdom must ratify the Agreement according to its own constitutional arrangements.

Timeline of Negotiations

On 29 March 2017, the United Kingdom notified the European Council of its intention to leave the European Union, in accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This triggered the start of a two year negotiation, also known as the Article 50 process.

The negotiations have been taking place on a phased basis. The first phase of negotiations primarily addressed three main baskets of withdrawal issues:

  1. guaranteeing citizens’ rights (EU citizens currently living in the UK and UK citizens currently living in the EU);
  2. settling the UK’s financial commitments;
  3. Ireland and Northern Ireland specific issues.

In December 2017, the European Council determined that enough progress had been made in phase one on the withdrawal issues to move to phase two, where the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the UK after the UK’s departure was discussed alongside the remaining withdrawal issues.

A draft Withdrawal Agreement was published in February 2018. In March 2018, certain elements of the draft Withdrawal Agreement were agreed in principle between the two negotiating teams, including conditional agreement on a transitional arrangement.  Also in March 2018, Prime Minister May reiterated in a letter to President Tusk her commitment to have a legally operative backstop solution in the Withdrawal Agreement to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

On 19 June 2018, a Joint Statement was published, outlining further progress in the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement.

On 14 November 2018, the European Commission and UK negotiators reached an agreement on the entirety of the Withdrawal Agreement and on an outline of the Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relationship.

On 25 November 2018, the European Council endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and approved the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship.