Michel Barnier and David Davis | Photo credit: Press Association
Negotiators Michel Barnier and David Davis said the deal on the “implementation period” was a "decisive step" in the Brexit process. However, issues still to be resolved include the Northern Ireland border.
This development paves the way for EU leaders to rubberstamp the deal at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.
Davis, the UK Brexit Secretary, said the transition agreement, which is conditional on both sides agreeing a final withdrawal treaty, would smooth the path to a future permanent relationship.
Davis told reporters in Brussels, “In December we reached an important milestone by achieving agreement on the first phase of negotiations. And today, we’ve taken another significant step by reaching agreement on the next phase which I am confident will be welcomed by the European Council when it meets later this week.
“Our teams have worked hard and at pace to secure the terms of a time-limited implementation period that gives the certainty demanded by businesses and citizens across the EU and UK. In December, we set out a shared ambition to reach agreement on the implementation period as soon as possible.
“Today we have achieved that ambition, thanks to the hard work and late nights of both our dedicated teams.
“Now, alongside progressing the outstanding issues in the Withdrawal Agreement, our attention must turn to the future. The deal we have struck today, on top of that agreed in December, should give us confidence that a good deal for the UK and the EU is closer than ever before.”
Ashley Fox, leader of the Conservatives in Parliament, welcomed the deal, saying, “This is a landmark moment. If, as expected, EU leaders approve the implementation period on Friday, Britain can immediately begin to shape its future relationship with the rest of the world.
“That means re-engaging with old friends and emerging new economies to strike trade agreements that provide maximum benefit for our companies, our economy and our citizens.
“We are also able to finally start discussing our future trading relationship with the EU. I know our European partners are as committed as we are to creating the most comprehensive and most valuable trade agreement in history.
“Many issues remain to be discussed in the coming months, but today feels like a watershed. These are exciting times.”
Elsewhere, former UK Labour MP Roger Casale, who has led a campaign to protect citizens’ rights, told this website, “It is very welcome news that transnational UK and EU citizens arriving in Britain or an EU member state during the transition period will continue to have the same rights as now.
“What this means in practice is that these citizens will retain their EU citizenship and free movement rights during the transition period. That buys valuable time to implement the Green Card for Europe proposal we have been advocating but it does nothing to alleviate uncertainty about what will happen when the transition period comes to an end."
“It must be obvious to the EU institutions if not to the UK government, that prolonging the uncertainty and anxiety for EU27 citizens in the UK now or who come here in the transition period and for their counterparts, the British citizens living or about to move to an EU member state, is completely unacceptable.”
Casale added, “We cannot wait until the end of the transition period for implementation of the new regime that will stabilise the status of transnational citizens once and for all. It's not even right that we should have to wait until the withdrawal agreement is signed and ratified.
“It is now time for the UK and the EU to act unilaterally and in parallel to secure the rights of transnational citizens - the introduction of a Green Card for Europe scheme can and should start immediately and we call on the Council to invite the Commission to bring forward such proposals without further delay.”