8 December 2017 TF50 (2017) 19 – Commission to EU 27
Joint report from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government on progress during phase 1 of negotiations under Article 50 TEU on the United Kingdom’s orderly
withdrawal from the European Union.
Origin: Presented jointly by the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government.
Remarks: This report is put forward with a view to the meeting of the European Council (Article 50) of 14-15 December 2017. Under the caveat that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, the joint commitments set out in this joint report shall be reflected in the Withdrawal Agreement in full detail. This does not prejudge any adaptations that might be appropriate in case transitional
arrangements were to be agreed in the second phase of the negotiations, and is without prejudice to discussions on the framework of the future relationship.
Published on the TF50 website on 8 December 2017
Ireland and Northern Ireland Background
42. Both Parties affirm that the achievements, benefits and commitments of the peace
process will remain of paramount importance to peace, stability and reconciliation.
They agree that the Good Friday or Belfast Agreement reached on 10 April 1998 by
the United Kingdom Government, the Irish Government and the other participants in
the multi-party negotiations (the ‘1998 Agreement’) must be protected in all its parts,
and that this extends to the practical application of the 1998 Agreement on the island
of Ireland and to the totality of the relationships set out in the Agreement.
43. The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union presents a significant
and unique challenge in relation to the island of Ireland. The United Kingdom recalls
its commitment to protecting the operation of the 1998 Agreement, including its
subsequent implementation agreements and arrangements, and to the effective
operation of each of the institutions and bodies established under them. The United
Kingdom also recalls its commitment to the avoidance of a hard border, including any
physical infrastructure or related checks and controls.
44. Both Parties recognise the need to respect the provisions of the 1998 Agreement
regarding the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the principle of consent.
The commitments set out in this joint report are and must remain fully consistent with
these provisions. The United Kingdom continues to respect and support fully Northern
Ireland’s position as an integral part of the United Kingdom, consistent with the
principle of consent.
45. The United Kingdom respects Ireland’s ongoing membership of the European Union
and all of the corresponding rights and obligations that entails, in particular Ireland’s
place in the Internal Market and the Customs Union. The United Kingdom also recalls
its commitment to preserving the integrity of its internal market and Northern Ireland’s
place within it, as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union’s Internal Market
and Customs Union.
46. The commitments and principles outlined in this joint report will not pre-determine the
outcome of wider discussions on the future relationship between the European Union
and the United Kingdom and are, as necessary, specific to the unique circumstances on
the island of Ireland. They are made and must be upheld in all circumstances,
irrespective of the nature of any future agreement between the European Union and
47. Cooperation between Ireland and Northern Ireland is a central part of the 1998
Agreement and is essential for achieving reconciliation and the normalisation of
relationships on the island of Ireland. In this regard, both Parties recall the roles,
functions and safeguards of the Northern Ireland Executive, the Northern Ireland
Assembly, and the North-South Ministerial Council (including its cross-community
provisions) as set out in the 1998 Agreement. The two Parties have carried out a
mapping exercise, which shows that North-South cooperation relies to a significant
extent on a common European Union legal and policy framework. Therefore, the
United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union gives rise to substantial
challenges to the maintenance and development of North-South cooperation.
Commitments (in Principle)
48. The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting and supporting continued
North-South and East-West cooperation across the full range of political, economic,
security, societal and agricultural contexts and frameworks of cooperation, including
the continued operation of the North-South implementation bodies.
49. The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to
its guarantee of avoiding a hard border. Any future arrangements must be compatible
with these overarching requirements. The United Kingdom’s intention is to achieve
these objectives through the overall EU-UK relationship. Should this not be possible,
the United Kingdom will propose specific solutions to address the unique
circumstances of the island of Ireland. In the absence of agreed solutions, the United
Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the
Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the allisland
economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.
50. In the absence of agreed solutions, as set out in the previous paragraph, the United
Kingdom will ensure that no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern
Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, unless, consistent with the 1998
Agreement, the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree that distinct
arrangements are appropriate for Northern Ireland. In all circumstances, the United
Kingdom will continue to ensure the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s
businesses to the whole of the United Kingdom internal market.
51. Both Parties will establish mechanisms to ensure the implementation and oversight of
any specific arrangement to safeguard the integrity of the EU Internal Market and the
52. Both Parties acknowledge that the 1998 Agreement recognises the birth right of all the
people of Northern Ireland to choose to be Irish or British or both and be accepted as
such. The people of Northern Ireland who are Irish citizens will continue to enjoy
rights as EU citizens, including where they reside in Northern Ireland. Both Parties
therefore agree that the Withdrawal Agreement should respect and be without
prejudice to the rights, opportunities and identity that come with European Union
citizenship for such people and, in the next phase of negotiations, will examine
arrangements required to give effect to the ongoing exercise of, and access to, their
EU rights, opportunities and benefits.
53. The 1998 Agreement also includes important provisions on Rights, Safeguards and
Equality of Opportunity for which EU law and practice has provided a supporting
framework in Northern Ireland and across the island of Ireland. The United Kingdom
commits to ensuring that no diminution of rights is caused by its departure from the
European Union, including in the area of protection against forms of discrimination
enshrined in EU law. The United Kingdom commits to facilitating the related work of
the institutions and bodies, established by the 1998 Agreement, in upholding human
rights and equality standards.
54. Both Parties recognise that the United Kingdom and Ireland may continue to make
arrangements between themselves relating to the movement of persons between their
territories (Common Travel Area), while fully respecting the rights of natural persons
conferred by Union law. The United Kingdom confirms and accepts that the Common
Travel Area and associated rights and privileges can continue to operate without
affecting Ireland’s obligations under Union law, in particular with respect to free
movement for EU citizens.
55. Both Parties will honour their commitments to the PEACE and INTERREG funding
programmes under the current multi-annual financial framework. Possibilities for
future support will be examined favourably.
56. Given the specific nature of issues related to Ireland and Northern Ireland, and on the
basis of the principles and commitments set out above, both Parties agree that in the
next phase work will continue in a distinct strand of the negotiations on the detailed
arrangements required to give them effect. Such work will also address issues arising
from Ireland’s unique geographic situation, including the transit of goods (to and from
Ireland via the United Kingdom), in line with the approach established by the
European Council Guidelines of 29 April 2017.