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20 March 2018, 04:20 | Simon Arnold
The UK Brexit Minister David Davis and the European Commission's Michel Barnier staged a press conference this morning (Monday) after a long weekend of negotiations, during which both parties made some concessions.
But "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed", he warned, insisting that "a lot of work needs to be done".
The deal agreed today (19 March), which it is hoped will be ratified by UK Prime Minister Theresa May and European leaders at an EU summit this week, allows the UK to negotiate and sign trade deals during the transition period and builds in the rights of the 4.5m EU citizens in the UK and the 1.2m UK citizens in the EU after Brexit.
Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "While some companies would have liked to see copper-bottomed legal guarantees around the transition, the political agreement reached in Brussels is sufficient for most businesses to plan ahead with a greater degree of confidence".
Separately, the agreement on the financial settlement will give certainty to those who run or benefit from European Union projects, Barnier insisted.
The EU and the United Kingdom also agreed on the terms and length of the transition period - from the entry into force of the withdrawal agreement until 31 December 2020. The U.K. will still be bound by all of the EU's rules during that time, but it won't be involved in any European Union decision making. Theresa May has reversed herself entirely on the rights of European Union citizens in Britain during the transition that is due to start next March.
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Hailing the deal as a "decisive step", Barnier and Davis said they had agreed on a "large part" of terms for a transitional deal but issues still to be resolved, such as the Northern Ireland border. But while Dublin and Brussels are focused on finding a solution within the context of the future trade relationship London continues to explore technological ways of avoiding a hard border.
"We note that Article 50 still has to be agreed in full before this can be assured and that the position of the Irish border and trade in goods has still not been clarified".
"The backstop will apply unless and until another solution is found", he said, adding that the European Union was "ready to look at all options which allow us to meet our objectives in constructive way". We look forward to working with Government in developing ambitious new trade agreements during the transition, building on the successes of the pig industry in exporting beyond the EU. "But it remains our intention to achieve a partnership that is so close as to not require specific measures in relation to Northern Ireland".
"We are, however, concerned that not enough attention is being given now to the finer details and practical implications of transition".
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