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The Brexit withdrawal agreement (officially: The draft Agreement on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union) is a proposed agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union on how to implement Brexit. It covers such matters as money, citizens rights, border arrangements and dispute resolution. It also contains a transition period, and an outline of the future relationship between the UK and the EU. Published on 14 November 2018, it was a result of the Brexit negotiations. The agreement was endorsed by the leaders of the 27 remaining EU countries[1] and the UK Government led by Prime Minister Theresa May, but faced opposition in the UK parliament, whose approval was necessary for ratification. On 10 December 2018, May deferred the vote scheduled on 11 December, because she thought it "would be rejected by a significant margin".[2] On 15 January 2019, the House of Commons rejected the withdrawal agreement by a vote of 432 to 202.[3] The Agreement was rejected again on 12 March 2019 by the House of Commons on a vote of 391 to 242,[4] and rejected a third time of 29 March 2019 by 344 votes to 286.

Closely connected to the withdrawal agreement is a political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and EU.



The withdrawal agreement, which runs to 599 pages, covers the following main areas:[5]

  • Money, particularly the division of assets and liabilities, and payment of any debt outstanding
  • Citizens rights, both of UK citizens in EU countries and vice-versa
  • Border arrangements and customs, particularly along the border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland
  • The law, and the mechanisms for resolving disputes, currently vested with the European Court of Justice

The agreement also sets up a transitional period, which lasts until 31 December 2020 and can be extended once by mutual consent. During the transitional period, the UK will remain a member of the European Economic Area, the single market, and the customs union, EU laws will continue to apply to the UK, and the UK will continue to pay into the EU budget. However, the UK will not be represented in the decision-making bodies of the EU. The transition period will give businesses time to adjust to the new situation and time for the British and EU governments to negotiate a new trade deal between the EU and UK.[6][7]

On the Irish border question, the agreement sets a backstop which will come into force, in the case that there is no new agreement between the EU and UK before the end of the transition period. In that case, the UK will remain in a customs union with the EU. Neither party can unilaterally withdraw from this customs union. The goal of this backstop agreement is to avoid a "hard" Irish border, where customs checks are necessary.[8]

The governance will be through a Joint Committee with representatives of both the European Union and the British government. There will be a number of specialised committees reporting to the Joint Committee.

The withdrawal agreement also includes provisions for the UK to leave the Convention Defining the Statute of the European Schools, with the UK bound by the Convention and the accompanying regulations on Accredited European Schools until the end of the last academic year of the transition period, i.e. the end of the spring semester of 2020-2021.[9]


The reception to the agreement ranged from cool to downright hostile and the vote was delayed more than a month. Prime Minister May won a no confidence motion in her own party, but the EU refused to accept any further changes.

UK government resignationsEdit

On 15 November 2018, the day after the agreement was presented and received backing from the cabinet of the UK government, several members of the government resigned, including Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.[10]


On 15 January, 2019, the House of Commons voted down May's deal by 230 votes,[3] the largest vote against the United Kingdom government in history.[11] The May government survived a confidence vote the following day.[3] On 12 March 2019, the Commons voted down May's deal by 149 votes, the fourth-largest defeat of the government in the history of the Commons.[12][13] A third vote on May's deal, widely expected to be held on 19 March 2019, was refused by the Speaker of the House of Commons on 18 March 2019 on the basis of a parliamentary convention dating from 2 April 1604 that prevents UK governments from forcing the Commons to repeatedly vote on an issue that the Commons has already voted upon.[14][15][16]. A cut-down vote on the Withdrawal Agreement alone without the attached Political Declaration passed the Speaker's test for 'substantial change' was held on 29 March 2019, but was voted down by 58 votes[17].


  1. ^ Kesbeh, Dina (25 November 2018). "European Union Leaders Approve Brexit Plan". National Public Radio. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  2. ^ "May calls off MPs' vote on her Brexit deal". BBC News. 2018-12-10. Retrieved 2018-12-16.
  3. ^ a b c Stewart, Heather (15 January 2019). "Theresa May loses Brexit deal vote by majority of 230". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  4. ^ Stewart, Heather (13 March 2019). "MPs ignore May's pleas and defeat her Brexit deal by 149 votes". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  5. ^ Chris Morris (25 November 2018) Britain's withdrawal agreement-what it all means. Reality Check, BBC; retrieved 2 April 2019
  6. ^ Rankin, Jennifer (2018-11-18). "Brexit transition could be extended to 2022, says Barnier". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-26.
  7. ^ BBC News (2018-11-19), Brexit: The transition period explained - BBC News, retrieved 2018-11-26
  8. ^ Henley, Jon (2018-11-14). "Brexit deal: key points from the draft withdrawal agreement". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-26.
  9. ^ "Europa School: 10 Jan 2019: House of Commons debates". TheyWorkForYou. 10 January 2019. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  10. ^ Bloom, Dan (15 November 2018). "Dominic Raab resigns as Brexit Secretary over Theresa May's Brexit deal". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  11. ^ "Brexit: Theresa May's deal is voted down in historic Commons defeat". BBC News. 15 January 2019. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  12. ^ White, Megan (12 March 2019). "MPs tell of 'difficult situation' after May's latest Brexit defeat". Evening Standard. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  13. ^ "MPs reject revised Brexit deal by overwhelming majority". RTÉ.ie. 12 March 2019. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  14. ^ "Explained: The '1604 rule' cited by Speaker ... and a question for all Scots". The National. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  15. ^ Elgot, Jessica; Mason, Rowena; Boffey, Daniel; Syal, Rajeev (2019-03-19). "Brexit: constitutional chaos after third vote on deal blocked". the Guardian. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
  16. ^ "A convention from 1604 just sent Brexit deeper into the abyss of uncertainty". NBC News.
  17. ^ "MPs reject May's EU withdrawal agreement". 2019-03-29. Retrieved 2019-03-29.