Brexit Deal: what you need to know
Negotiators have reached agreement on the terms of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. The long-awaited Brexit deal follows months of protracted negotiations between the UK and EU, and significant political turbulence in the UK – which looks set to continue into the coming weeks, with two secretaries of state, including Dominic Raab, the Brexit Secretary, having already resigned from government over their opposition to the plan.
Britain will leave the European Union in a little under four months, on 29 March 2019 - if the Withdrawal Agreement secured this week is agreed by the UK and European Parliaments, it will finally provide much-needed clarity for businesses and individuals over the terms of the UK’s exit and what arrangements will apply after it leaves. The RIBA has long demanded this clarity and called on both sides to deliver a pragmatic agreement which protects architects and practices in the UK and Europe.
European heads of government will meet at the end of the month to formally agree the Withdrawal Agreement – the UK Parliament must then vote on whether to accept this deal or reject it; risking a no deal outcome and triggering further, significant political upheaval at the top of government. RIBA’s guidance for practices on a no-deal Brexit outlines the contingency planning that practices may need to consider taking to prepare for the risk of a no-deal outcome.
The 585-page Withdrawal Agreement confirms that a transition period would take place after the UK leaves the EU – during which the UK will be treated as if it was an EU Member State (but without participation in the EU institutions) until 31 December 2020. UK architects would therefore continue to have full access to the EU single market and enjoy tariff-free trade with the EU market under the EU’s customs union, until the end of the post-Brexit transition period – as 74% of architects called for in our report Global by Design 2018 earlier this year. The UK will also remain subject to European standards at least until this time.
The UK and EU have also agreed the outline of the ‘future UK-EU relationship’ – the full details of the new trading and economic relationship between the UK and the bloc will be negotiated during the transition period, but this outline commits both sides to seek a “deep and comprehensive” free trade area with tariff-free trade in goods, “ambitious” arrangements for trade in services and visa-free travel between the UK and EU.
In the event that this future trade deal cannot be agreed before the end of 2020, the Withdrawal Agreement contains a backstop mechanism to ensure that a border does not occur between Northern Ireland and Ireland. This backstop would see the UK remain part of a customs area with the EU, and Northern Ireland remain subject to single market rules for goods, until the future relationship agreement comes into effect.
Provisions on citizens’ rights safeguard the rights of European Union citizens in the UK and UK citizens living elsewhere in the European Union – to live, work, study, bring family members and apply for permanent residence in their host country. Under the deal, European architects who are already living and working in the UK, and those who arrive before the end of the transition period, will continue to enjoy the same rights and guarantees they enjoy now – providing EU nationals with the clarity and certainty over their status that the RIBA has called on the government give them.
Visa-free travel between the UK and EU will continue until the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, with both sides committing to agreeing continued visa-free travel as part of the future relationship.
The mutual recognition of professional qualifications (MRPQ) for architects and other professionals would also continue, under the terms of the EU’s Professional Qualifications Directive, until the end of the transition period. Architects with EU qualifications who are registered in the UK (and vice versa) will continue to enjoy recognition of their qualifications on a reciprocal basis – including those who arrive after Brexit on 29 March 2019 but before the end of 2020. The UK and EU will also seek to agree “appropriate” provisions for continued MRPQ as part of a new trade agreement – a commitment that the RIBA has identified as a top priority for the sector and consistently called for.
With the Brexit process entering a critical stage, the RIBA will continue to engage at all levels with the UK government and European negotiators on behalf of our members, and to continue making the case for an agreement, and a future UK-EU relationship that preserves the access to talent, mutual recognition of professional qualifications and frictionless trade that has supported British architecture’s global prominence.
MPs must now vote on whether to accept this agreement or reject it - Parliament will vote on the agreement on 11 December. If members wish to contact their own Members of Parliament ahead of the vote, they can find out who represents them here. You can find out more about the RIBA's policy positions on Brexit and the work we've been doing here.