The ambassadors of the countries of the European Union (EU) met this Friday to analyze the agreement on the relationship after the Brexit, closed yesterday with the United Kingdom, a first step towards the provisional application of the pact, on January 1, 2021, when EU legislation will no longer apply on British territory.
"The EU Member States will now begin to review the 1,246 pages of the agreement and will continue with this overwhelming exercise in the coming days," wrote Sebastian Fischer, spokesman for the rotating presidency of the EU-27, now held by Germany, on Twitter.
Only one day after London and Brussels reached the agreement, the EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, informed the ambassadors of the Member States about the agreed text.
Community sources indicated that the countries thanked Barnier and his team for their work and stressed the importance of having remained united throughout the negotiating process with London
In any case, the countries requested "a little time" to the European Commission to study the texts and that contact points are available in the next few days in the Community Executive, as well as a list of the most important measures that the Member States should take to be ready on January 1, when the United Kingdom will have definitively become a third country.
They also urged that the reserve of 5,000 million euros foreseen in the EU budget for the period 2021-2027 be presented soon to support the countries and economic sectors most affected by the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union.
Barnier assured the diplomats that in a divorce both parties lose, but he assumed that the agreement reached is "reasonable" and protects the interests of the Twenty-Seven.
"The EU ambassadors praised Michel Barnier and the EU negotiating team for their resilience and firmness under intense pressure during the Brexit negotiation with the United Kingdom," Fischer said on Twitter when the ambassadors' meeting ended.
The German Presidency has decided to send a letter to the European Parliament in which it communicates the intention of the Member States to apply the agreement provisionally on January 1st, before the European Parliament gives its consent to the text in the plenary session to be held between January 18th and 21st.
"The (German) ambassador to the EU, Michael Clauss, signed a letter to the European Parliament on the intention of the EU member states to take a decision on the preliminary application of the agreement in the coming days," said German Presidency spokesman Sebastian Fischer, who added that the countries supported the letter "unanimously".
Diplomatic sources said that the letter includes the need for provisional application to avoid "significant disruptions" in relations between the EU and the United Kingdom "with serious consequences for citizens and businesses at the end of the transition period on January 1.
According to the sources, the provisional application will also allow "adequate and full democratic scrutiny" of the Convention by the European Parliament and the Council of the Member States before its final ratification.
The European Parliament is responsible for ratifying the agreement with the United Kingdom, but due to the prolongation of the negotiations until Christmas Eve, it has given as impossible to do it in 2020.
Thus, the European Commission proposed on Thursday to implement the document on a provisional basis between 1 January and 28 February 2021.
However, this provisional application also requires a series of formalities that the community club hopes to complete before the end of the year.
After the meeting of the diplomats today, the governments of the Member States will have a few days to examine the agreement.
In a few days, the Council, which brings together the EU countries, will vote on the decision on provisional application and signature.
The goal is to sign and publish the pact in the official journal of the EU before the end of the year, so that it can enter into force provisionally on January 1.
In January, it will be the vote in the European Parliament and the Council will then take the decision to conclude the agreement.
Although the European Parliament will not vote until January, next Monday at 10:00 a.m. (09:00 GMT) the leaders of the parliamentary groups will hold a meeting to which they have invited the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the Community negotiator, Michel Barnier.
Ireland is breathing. Christmas Eve agreement saves Good Friday agreement
Almost five years after the shock of the Brexit referendum, Ireland is breathing a sigh of relief. Its main trading partner and closest neighbor, the United Kingdom, leaves the European Union (EU) with an agreement that prevents a wild divorce.
Since the beginning of this separation, however, the Dublin government has had the support of Brussels and its EU partners, as it had much to lose from a messy exit.
The solidarity of the Twenty-Seven has served as a warning to London during the negotiations, since it made it clear that the bloc would defend the interests of all its members, including those of a small island of little more than 4 million inhabitants located on the margins of the continent.
Thus, at the same time, Brussels sent a clear message to other members tempted to follow the example of the fractious Albion in times of populist politicians: "getting out of the community club is not an easy task.
Therefore, there was also no lack of voices in Ireland saying that, when the time came, Brussels would give priority to the general interests of the EU over those of this country, even opening the door to a debate on the convenience of its exit from the block, the utopian Irexit.
The first test of the solidity of this compromise came with the issue of the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the only land barrier that will remain standing between the UK and the EU after Brexit.
That divide, more than 500 kilometers long, has remained invisible since the signing of the Good Friday peace agreements, the text that put an end to the bloody Northern Irish conflict.
The freedom of movement between brothers in the north and south of the island, the uninterrupted transit of goods and services, the absence of physical border infrastructure have been key to strengthening the democratic process. To guarantee an end to the violence and reconciliation between the two historically opposed communities, the Catholic-nationalist and the Protestant-Unionist.
And also to generate a pan-Irish, cross-border and highly interconnected economy. The teacher who teaches in a Northern Irish school has her residence in Ireland; the milk from the cows that graze in the north is processed in a factory in the south; and so on.
Examples of this special relationship are numerous, and the wild Brexit threatened to blow up this hard-working and delicate balance of social, economic and political forces.
In addition to Brussels, Dublin has had Washington's support on the border issue - more clearly that of the Democrats than that of Donald Trump, an enthusiast of a hard-line Brexit - because successive administrations have always been very involved in the peace process.
The hard-fought punch line
The puzzle, however, was not easy to fit. The UK reiterated from the outset that it would leave the EU's single market and customs union in order to sign other trade agreements around the world.
The EU, therefore, was forced to design a plan to protect the internal market in front of the entrance door of the Northern Irish border, but without altering its invisibility.
The solution has been in a complex security mechanism called the Irish Protocol, included in the Exit Agreement that London and Brussels agreed in October 2019 and that came into force last February, the text that sets the terms for "the orderly exit of the United Kingdom from the EU," according to the document.
The Brexit, however, has marked its own times and the arrival of Boris Johnson at the head of the British government in July has added uncertainty to the negotiation on the trade relationship that the two parties will have after this divorce.
The Conservative leader was prepared to close the transition period of Brexit, which ends on December 31st, without an agreement, which would have been catastrophic for Ireland's economy, already badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The health crisis has also damaged British finances and perhaps caused some vertigo in Downing Street so as not to take that leap into the void that Boris, with bravado, said he was willing to take.
The Christmas Eve Agreement
Likewise, the end of 2020 has brought a new tenant to the White House. Democrat Joe Biden boasts of his Irish roots and has made it clear from the outset that any trade pact must respect the contents of the 1998 peace accords and avoid the return of a hard-line border.
With this new post-Brexit agreement, the Irish Protocol remains intact. It implies that Northern Ireland will continue to be aligned in certain areas with the rules of the single market and the customs union in order to keep the border with the South open.
Ireland is breathing easy. The Good Friday agreement is safe thanks to the Brexit pact, which around here they are already starting to call the Christmas Eve agreement, the best gift for this pandemic Christmas.