Just when you thought the Brexit talks had got somewhere, the EU has thrown a mighty large spanner in the works.
Remember how there was a breakthrough before Christmas, with the EU and UK agreeing the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc?
That is about to fall apart.
The European Commission has published the full version of the draft agreement, which takes in how much the UK will pay to the EU, citizens’ rights and the future of the Northern Ireland/Ireland border.
It’s fair to say the UK Government does not completely agree with the EU’s interpretation of what was agreed.
Commenting in the document at Prime Minister’s Questions, Theresa May said “no UK Prime Minister could ever agree” to the draft legal text published by Brussels.
She added that it would “undermine the UK common market and threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK”.
HuffPost UK has trawled through the 118 page document to dig out the key areas of difference between the UK and the EU.
Here are six flash points which could collapse the Brexit talks
1) Full Rights For EU Citizens
The EU wants any of its citizens that arrive in the UK during the transition period to get the full rights associated with freedom of movement.
Theresa May has insisted they will need to be treated differently “because they will be coming to a UK that they know will be outside the EU”.
All citizens who move to the UK during the transition period will have the right to stay in the country for five years in order to acquire full citizenship.
The above section comes from the memo accompanying the draft document, and sums up the EU’s position.
2) European Court Of Justice Keeps Its Power Over UK Courts For The Transition Period And Beyond
One of the most contentious aspects for many Brexiteers, the EU wants the ECJ to maintain its jurisdiction for the transition period, and also have the ability to make rulings on cases which are initiated during that time but take many years to resolve.
Along with this, the ECJ will be able to make preliminary rulings on cases in UK courts involving the Brexit agreement for eight years after the end of the transition period.
3) Transition Period Ends December 31 2020
In her Florence speech, Theresa May said she wanted the post-Brexit implementation period to last “around two years”.
Yet the UK’s draft negotiating guidelines published last week suggested it could last even longer, saying “the period’s duration should be determined simply by how long it will take to prepare and implement the new processes and new systems that will underpin the future partnership.”
The EU is much more definitive, and believes the transition period should on December 31 2020.
4) The UK Can’t Negotiate Trade Deals During The Transition Period
The memo accompanying the draft is unclear on whether the UK can negotiate new trade deals during the implementation period, only that it can’t sign them.
However, the draft itself has language which suggests the UK can’t undertake any negotiations. The UK will have to abstain “from any action or initiative which is likely to be prejudicial to the Union’s interest”. This could mean the UK can’t begin negotiating any deals which would undercut the EU.
5) Northern Ireland Stays In The Customs Union Even After The Transition Period
The EU is playing hardball over Northern Ireland. The document is explicit that after Brexit, if nothing else is agreed, Northern Ireland “shall be considered to be part of the customs territory of the Union.”
The UK has rejected this point on numerous occasions, and in December only went so far as to agree to regulatory alignment in certain sectors in order to keep an invisible border on the island of Ireland.
6) Spain Can Veto Any Deal Applying To Gibraltar
Not actually included in the draft agreement, but mentioned in the accompanying memo, Spain has the power to stop any deal applying to Gibraltar.
When this was first raised in April 2017, former Tory leader Michael Howard suggested Theresa May would be prepared to go to war with Spain to protect the interests of Gibraltarians.