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EU Council Conclusions main points: 1/ The EU “stands by this agreement and intends to proceed with its ratification. It is not open for renegotiation.”
The Council reiterates it wishes to establish as close as possible a partnership with the UK in the future. It stands ready to embark on preparations immediately after signature of the WA to ensure that negotiations can start as soon as possible after the UK’s withdrawal.
The Council underlines that the backstop is intended as an insurance policy to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland and ensure the integrity of the Single Market.
It is the EU’s firm determination to work speedily on a subsequent agreement that establishes by 31 December 2020 alternative arrangements, so that the backstop will not need to be triggered.
The Council underlines that, “if the backstop were nevertheless to be triggered, it would apply temporarily, unless and until it is superseded by a subsequent agreement that ensures that a hard border is avoided.”
In such a case, the EU wd use its best endeavours to negotiate and conclude expeditiously a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop, and would expect the same of the United Kingdom, so that the backstop would only be in place for as long as strictly necessary.
So, largely a reiteration of the WA and political declaration.
Some emphasis on working quickly to conclude a free trade deal (“firm determination”)
No reference to two step approach - ie, no promise of legal instrument in January. Earlier draft said EU “stood ready to examine whether any further assurance can be provided” on the backstop. That’s been removed, and my guess is Dublin is happy
Earlier language that the backstop is not a “desirable option” for the EU has been removed. Also something Ireland was keen to change in the text.
Overall, not a lot for the PM to celebrate - although in her meeting with Varadkar she emphasised the need to prove that an FTA could be expedited to show Britain wouldn’t be “trapped” in the backstop. That wording is there.
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