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Gavan Reilly @gavreilly
, 22 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
So help me God, I think I’m going to try and explain where Brexit is right now.

A thread: (1/21)
2/ Firstly: unless something *really* extraordinary happens in the next four months, the UK is leaving the EU on 29 March 2019.

That would, ordinarily, mean completely cutting all ties with the EU’s laws and institutions. But doing so overnight would be carnage and chaotic.
3/ Nobody wants chaos, and all sides want a close-ish relationship afterwards, on trade and security and loads of other stuff.

But while the UK remains within the EU, the EU can’t negotiate on trade with a part of itself. It can only start doing so AFTER March 2019. Therefore…
4/ To avoid immediate trading chaos - not to mention prospect of huge transport disruption, food and medicine shortages, etc - the UK will basically *act as if* it is still part of the EU for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020. It will continue to honour and implement the EU’s law.
5/ It will also fulfil its contributions to the EU budget for that period, which come to around £39bn.

Even though it will have no day in writing EU law, the UK will at least continue to have full open trading access to the rest of Europe, and vice-versa.
6/ During this period, the “transition period”, the UK and EU will start talks on a permanent future relationship, to govern trade and security and justice and a whole heap of other areas. These are inanely complex and could take aaaages to do (if it’s even at all possible).
7/ Therefore the ‘transition period’ can be extended, if both sides agree, by an extra year(s), so as to maintain the status quo and avoid chaotic disruption in between the *current* and *future* arrangements.

However the proposed exit deal says this can only happen once only.
8/ IF the transition period ran out without a future deal, it would be the UK’s right to suddenly stop honouring or implementing EU laws, customs and product rules, and diverge away.

This would raise the prospect of two divergent trading regimes on the island of Ireland.
9/ This in turn would likely create a ‘hard border’, where products moving from one side to the other would have to be checked to ensure compliance with product rules, or to check that tariffs had been paid on any products moving between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
10/ Such a ‘hard border’ - aside from being hugely disruptive to the people who live and trade close to that border, and travel across it regularly - may also be a security concern. A physical sign of ‘partition’ could become a target for dissident terrorists and upturn the peace
11/ To avoid such a border, both sides agreed that the UK will implement a “backstop” - so that EVEN IF the transition deal ended with no new deal agreed, the UK would avoid measures that required a border to be introduced.
12/ How? Effectively by still committing to honouring enough European law and rules to avoid it. The plan, in short, is to keep the entire UK inside the EU’s customs area - so that there is no need for checks across the Irish border, or between NI and Great Britain.
13/ In addition Northern Ireland would also honour the EU’s rules on product standards, which negates any need to check them as they across the land border to Ireland.

The same commitment has not been made for Great Britain, which could diverge from the EU on product standards.
14/ The prospect of having different product standards across the UK means there would have to be checks on products going between NI and GB to ensure compliance with the rules of the other territory. This is what is known as a ‘border in the Irish Sea’.
15/ The main practical difficulties, as far as the UK is concerned, are threefold.

Firstly, these EU rules/standards are ultimately enforced by the EU’s own court system, which leaves the UK subject to foreign courts without having a say in how those laws are written up.
16/ Secondly, the idea of Great Britain having a slightly different regulatory regime to Northern Ireland - with NI bound a bit more closely to the EU’s rules - raises concerns among Unionists that the integrity of the broader UK is fractured. (This is denied by EU and others.)
17/ Thirdly, the backstop measures would apply “unless and until” a better deal is found, and could be scrapped only by mutual agreement.

In other words: without an agreed alternative, the UK would be bound by the EU’s rules until the EU itself believes they’re no longer needed.
18/ It is worth stressing that these threefold difficulties only arise *under the backstop plan*, which both sides hope will never actually be needed.

Each side is keen to agree a full trade deal during the transition period, and to extend that period if need be.
19/ But remember: if this deal (or an alternative) is not agreed in advance of ‘Brexit day’ on March 29, 2019... there are no failsafes, no fallback measures, and the UK might well find itself locked out of the easy movement of people and products.
20/ Because Brexit is now less than 150 days away - and the deal agreed this week is the product of 18 months of negotiation - the EU will almost certainly rule out further talks. It will need certainty about what the world will be like come March 30, and want to plan accordingly
21/ All of which means the UK Parliament must now decide whether to accept this deal - with the concerns that it brings - or to face the immediate chaos brought by a ‘no deal’ or ‘hard Brexit’…

…or, for something extraordinary to happen and potentially abandon it all.

PS: Some of the above - the extent of immediate transport disruption, how quickly a physical border might be needed, the risk of violence in Northern Ireland - might be a matter of debate. I’ve tried to go for a middle-of-the-road explanation so please excuse any lack of nuance.
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