What You Need to Know About the Withdrawal Agreement First Reading
The Withdrawal Agreement is a legal text that sets out the terms of the United Kingdom`s departure from the European Union, including the rights and obligations of both parties during a transitional period and beyond. The Withdrawal Agreement was negotiated by the UK government and the European Commission, and has been subject to multiple rounds of contentious debates, amendments, and votes in the UK Parliament and the European Parliament. The Withdrawal Agreement first reading refers to the initial consideration of the text by the European Parliament in January 2019, before several crucial changes were made in later stages.
Why is the Withdrawal Agreement important?
The Withdrawal Agreement is important because it defines a framework for the future relationship between the UK and the EU, which have been closely integrated for decades through trade, travel, security, and other areas. The Withdrawal Agreement covers many aspects of the separation, such as the financial settlement, citizens` rights, border arrangements, and governance. The Withdrawal Agreement also includes a protocol on Northern Ireland, which aims to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland while preserving the integrity of the EU`s single market and customs union.
The Withdrawal Agreement needs to be ratified by both the UK Parliament and the European Parliament, as well as the Council of the EU, before it can enter into force. However, the Withdrawal Agreement has faced significant opposition from various quarters, including pro-Brexit MPs who argue that the text would keep the UK too closely tied to the EU, and pro-EU MPs who argue that the text would harm the UK`s interests and values.
What happened in the Withdrawal Agreement first reading?
The Withdrawal Agreement first reading took place on January 16, 2019, when the European Parliament debated and voted on the text as agreed by the UK and the EU negotiators. The first reading is a procedural step in the legislative process of the European Union, which enables the Parliament to express its initial position on the Withdrawal Agreement, and to send it to the Council of the EU for further negotiations.
During the first reading, the European Parliament adopted several resolutions and amendments to the Withdrawal Agreement, which focused on the following issues:
— The status and rights of EU citizens and UK nationals during the transition period and beyond, including the protection of social security, healthcare, and study rights.
— The financial settlement, which specifies the amount and timing of the UK`s payments to the EU budget and other funds, as well as the oversight and auditing mechanisms.
— The governance and dispute resolution mechanisms, which establish a joint committee, an arbitration panel, and a role for the European Court of Justice in interpreting the Withdrawal Agreement.
— The Northern Ireland protocol, which emphasizes the importance of the Good Friday Agreement and the need to avoid a hard border, and welcomes the UK`s commitment to maintain regulatory alignment with the EU for certain goods and standards.
The first reading also revealed some of the divisions and concerns among the MEPs, who expressed various opinions and emotions about the impact of Brexit on the EU and the UK. Some MEPs warned that the Withdrawal Agreement was the only viable option for an orderly withdrawal, while others criticized it for being too favorable or not favorable enough for the EU. Some MEPs also called for a second referendum or an extension of the Article 50 deadline, while others advocated for a no-deal scenario or a closer partnership between the EU and the UK.
What happened after the Withdrawal Agreement first reading?
After the Withdrawal Agreement first reading, the European Parliament and the UK Parliament continued to scrutinize and debate the text, and suggested several modifications and additions to the Withdrawal Agreement. Some of the key changes were:
— The UK Parliament rejected the Withdrawal Agreement three times, due to various reasons such as the backstop issue, the lack of clarity on the future relationship, and the political instability of the UK.
— The European Council approved an extension of the Article 50 deadline, which postponed the Brexit date from March 29, 2019 to October 31, 2019, with the possibility of an earlier exit if the Withdrawal Agreement was ratified or an alternative solution was found.
— The UK government and the EU agreed on some changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, such as the legally binding instrument on the backstop, the joint statement on the future relationship, and the political declaration on the framework for the future relationship. However, these changes were not enough to convince the UK Parliament to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement, and the EU warned that there would be no further negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement.
What can we learn from the Withdrawal Agreement first reading?
The Withdrawal Agreement first reading provides a snapshot of the complex and dynamic process of Brexit, which involves multiple actors, interests, and emotions. The first reading shows that the Withdrawal Agreement is a highly contested and negotiated document, which reflects the compromises and trade-offs between the UK and the EU, and between different factions within the UK and the EU. The first reading also shows that the Withdrawal Agreement is not a static or final text, but a living and adaptive one, which can be revised and improved through the democratic and legal channels of the EU and the UK. Therefore, the Withdrawal Agreement first reading reminds us that the Brexit saga is not over yet, and that the future of the UK and the EU will depend on how they address the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.