There are quite a few commonly-found (but sometimes confusing) terms being used around Brexit, so here’s what they all mean – and in clearer, simple language.
Article 50 – this was inserted into the European Union (EU) Treaty by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 and allows a Member State to formally leave the EU – although there is a set procedure for doing this.
The Backstop and the Hard Border Explained – What is the issue and why is this an issue? Once Britain leaves the European Union, the Irish border will become an external EU frontier. The border, which stretches some 300 miles, is now largely invisible and all sides agree that it will be essential to maintain the free flow of trade and passenger traffic. Currently there is a nominal border between the Republic of Ireland (Eire) and Northern Ireland, as the two have at the very least separate currencies (the Euro and Sterling) along with differing rates of indirect and direct taxation. Britain wants to leave the EU’s customs union and single market, meaning checks would be required by the EU on people and products crossing from one territory to the other. Britain maintains that this can be done away from the border whilst the EU seems to believe that a hard border is inevitable but unacceptable. Both London and Brussels have pledged to avoid any physical infrastructure, or “hard border” and this has become central to the future trade element of Brexit negotiations. Some fear it could upset the delicate peace process that resulted from the Good Friday Agreement. Others believe this to be scaremongering. It is rightly an important issue but perhaps a little insulting to believe that in the 21st century the new generation of Irish youth on both sides of the border would regress to the decades of violence between Protestant supporters of British rule over the province and Irish Catholic nationalists, which has raged in recent times. Where do the two sides; the EU and the UK differ? The EU’s proposed ‘backstop’ seeks to keep Northern Ireland within elements of the single market and the customs union, meaning it would have to accept EU rules, standards and also apply EU tariffs. Both the Prime Minister Theresa May and the Northern Irish party (Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)), that was until recently supporting her government, have continually reiterated that this option was unacceptable because it would effectively carve off Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom by effectively creating a border in the Irish Sea. As an alternative the two proposed, instead, a temporary customs arrangement between the EU and the whole of Britain, including Northern Ireland. Are they in agreement now with the recent ‘Withdrawal Agreement’? Quite simply: No. The draft withdrawal deal between the EU and UK contains the ‘backstop’ that would mean Northern Ireland continuing to follow many rules of the EU’s single market. It would apply if a wider deal cannot keep the Irish border as frictionless as it is now. As a result the DUP have withdrawn their support for the Government and Parliament itself seems to be split on the issue, with accusations of capitulating to the EU and essentially kicking the whole problem into the long grass. As it stands the UK as a whole will remain in the Customs Union for the length of the implementation period, which is currently scheduled to end in December 2020. During that time the negotiations will continue to seek a solution to this problem. Quite simply we will remain in the EU in all but name until this issue is resolved. This is why there are discussions in the new deal about extending the negotiating period (Future Trade Deal Agreement) indefinitely and leaving the UK tied to the EU, Customs Union and Laws without any decision making powers or influence until this issue is resolved. The Backstop in one sentence: Leave the EU on 31 January 2020 but everything remains the same indefinitely until a solution to the Irish Border can be found. Clearly this is a problem that has not been resolved in the past two years, and at the moment there is little to suggest that it will be resolved in the next two years.
Brexit Day – it’s now the 31st of January, 2020 and when the UK will officially leave the European Union.
Brexiters/Brexiteers – short for those who are in favour of Brexit.
Canada Model – a free-trade agreement between the EU and Canada which removes lots of barriers to trade between the two, but not as many as the Norway model (see below).
Common Travel Area (CTA) – an open borders area involving the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Arrangements have been in operation since the 1920s and they’re subject to token border controls – meaning UK and Irish citizens can normally cross internal borders with minimal identity documents.
Customs partnership – this proposal would enable trade in goods between the UK and Europe without the need for customs checks.
Customs union – a form of trade agreement by which two or more countries decide not to impose tariffs on each other’s goods, plus agree to have the same tariffs on goods from those outside their customs union. The EU customs union forbids members from negotiating trade agreements separately from the EU however.
DExEU (The Department for Exiting the European Union) – recently set up by the Government to manage the UK’s departure from the EU.
EU – stands for European Union and is the economic and political group of 28 member states, which the UK is planning to leave.
EU Withdrawal Bill – the legislation currently passing through Parliament that will cancel UK membership of the EU. It will also convert almost all EU law into UK law – with Parliament deciding which EU laws it wants to keep and get rid of?
European Economic Area (EEA) – an area made up of the 28 EU countries, but also Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. This enables those three countries to be part of the EU’s single market and they follow its rules, as well as enjoying free movement of people, goods, services and money.
European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – an organisation made up of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. They’re allowed to trade freely with the single market in return for accepting its rules, but are not in the EU customs union and can negotiate trade deals with third-party countries such as China.
Facilitated customs arrangement (FCA) – a plan for a post-Brexit customs agreement in which goods destined for the EU would be charged their tariff and goods headed to the UK would be charged the UK’s own potentially lower tariff. This would be in line with EU regulations while allowing Britain to operate a semi-independent trade policy.
Freedom of movement – allows EU citizens and their families to move to, live in, and in certain circumstances access the welfare system of the other EU country. Freedom of movement is one of the founding principles of the EU.
Hard border – controlled and protected by customs officials, police, or military personnel.
Hard Brexit – the phrase often used by critics of Brexit, who think it will harm the UK economy. A hard Brexit would see few of the existing ties between the UK and the EU being retained – leading to more disruption than a Soft Brexit.
Maximum Facilitation (Max-Fac) – an option favoured by those who want a complete break with the EU customs regime and would rely instead on technology to minimise border checks. Surveillance would be intelligence-led, rather than by random searches.
Norway Model – retaining close ties to the EU without being a fully paid-up member. The UK would have to allow freedom of movement of people, make a contribution to the EU budget (smaller than it currently makes) and follow the rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) – in exchange for remaining in the single market.
Right to Remain – indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or permanent residency (PR) is the immigration status of a person who does not hold the right to live in the UK. However, they’re both granted without any time limit on the stay and these people are free to take up employment or study, without restriction.
Settled status – this will give EU citizens and their families the right to stay in the UK and access benefits and public services after Brexit. Click here for more information.
Single Market Access – the terms on which countries outside the single market can trade with it. Some countries like Singapore and Canada have favourable access to the European single market through a free trade agreement (FTA). The Prime minister has stated that she is seeking access to the single market via an FTA once the UK has left the EU.
Soft Brexit – leaving the EU but staying as closely aligned to it as possible. It could keep the UK in the single market, or the customs union, or both, plus it could involve a deal on free movement of people – allowing EU citizens rights to settle in the UK with access to public services and benefits.
Transition – the period covering the UK leaving the EU (31st January, 2020) and the start of new arrangements for future trade ( at least 1st January 2021). The UK calls it the ‘implementation’ phase.
World Trade Organisation (WTO) – the only body dealing with the rules of trade between nations. If the UK were to leave the EU with no new trading relationship agreed (and no extension granted), UK trade with member states would then have to follow WTO rules – considerably increasing the costs of business and EU-UK trade.