The draft political declaration has now been published. The shopping list for determining the shape of negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU, which cannot start until after exit day, has grown from 7 pages to 26 pages. In the maritime sphere there is a brief reference to the UK’s relationship with EMSA in para 65, providing for facilitation of cooperation on maritime safety and security, including exchange of information between EMSA and the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, consistent with the UK’s status as a third country. There is nothing on civil jurisdiction.
Fishing opportunities are referred to in paras 73 to 76 with para 75 stating ‘Within the context of the overall economic partnership the Parties should establish a new fisheries agreement on, inter alia, access to waters and quota shares.” There is also some reference to what will be needed to ensure the new agreement is WTO compliant, so that, for example, in line with article V of the General Agreement on Trade in Services the Parties should aim at substantial sectoral coverage, covering all modes of supply and providing for the absence of substantially all discrimination in the covered sectors, with exceptions and limitations as appropriate.
Chapter IX notes that free movement of persons between the EU and the UK will no longer apply and sets out various non discriminatory mobility arrangements such as confirming commitments to effective family law instruments to which the EU and the UK are party and noting the UK’s intention to accede to the 2007 Hague Maintenance Convention. In case the UK changes its mind on free movement in the future para 54 commits the Parties to consider addressing social security coordination.
A last minute obstacle to the signing of the agreement on Sunday has come with Spain’s objections to article 184 in the draft withdrawal agreement which provides that the EU and the UK will seek to “negotiate rapidly the agreements governing their future relationship” between the official day of withdrawal on 29 March 2019 and the end of a transition period in December 2020. Spain wants to ensure that negotiations on the future of the EU-UK relationship would not include Gibraltar and confine discussions to bilateral arrangements with the UK. No reference is made to this in the political declaration
It still remains uncertain whether the UK Parliament will vote for the withdrawal agreement when it is put before it in the meaningful vote, scheduled for some time early in December. There have been some interesting cultural references to the agreement. Following Dominic Raab’s resignation, various commentators have referenced ‘Hotel California’ with regard to the Backstop, “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” while the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, has referred to a ‘Thelma and Louise’ exit from the EU.
For myself, I go back to Tancredi’s words in ‘The Leopard’ by Giuseppe di Lampedusa. ‘For everything to stay the same, everything must change’.