LONDON (Reuters) - The European Union and Britain agreed that their divorce treaty would include an emergency “backstop” to avoid a hard border in Ireland, the bloc’s Brexit negotiator said on Monday, adding that meant London would now get a transition deal.
“We have transition deal,” Michel Barnier told reporters after a weekend of late-night negotiations with Britain. “We have agreed that the backstop solution must form part of the legal text of the withdrawal agreement.”
Following is reaction to the deal:
Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce:
“This is a milestone that many businesses across the UK have been waiting for. The agreement of a status quo transition period is great news for trading firms on both sides of the Channel, as it means that they will face little or no change in day-to-day business in the short term.
“While some companies would have liked to see copper-bottomed legal guarantees around the transition, the political agreement reached in Brussels is sufficient for most businesses to plan ahead with a greater degree of confidence. Many companies will now have the clarity they require to proceed with investment and hiring strategies that would otherwise have remained in question.
“In the interests of business across Europe, both sides must now do everything in their power to ensure that the transition does not become a political football later in the negotiation process.”
Allie Renison, Head of Europe & Trade Policy at Britain’s Institute of Directors:
“We hope that the EU summit this week will not be seen as an opportunity for political leaders to muddy the waters of this deal as agreement on transition is vital for businesses across Europe.
“We are, however, concerned that not enough attention is being given now to the finer details and practical implications of transition. Many businesses will only be able to sufficiently plan and prepare for Brexit once the precise details of the future relationship are known, and any changes to domestic infrastructure like customs have been implemented.”
Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chairman of the City of London Corporation:
“Today’s announcement lifts some weight off the shoulders of firms in the UK and the EU. Before the announcement firms were peering over the precipice.
“They are now on firmer ground and we hope that the regulators will be tasked to work together by the UK and EU to underpin this political commitment and give firms the certainty they need.
“But there are still a number of areas to be resolved – notably the Ireland and UK border issue. Government has made great progress in recent weeks. It’s vital we find a resolution to this issue as soon as possible.”
Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry:
“This is what businesses have been calling for since last summer. While some sectors may need more than 20 months to prepare for post-Brexit life, this is a victory for common sense that will help protect living standards, jobs and growth.
“With a year to go, this breakthrough must set the pattern for the future. Other hurdles on the Brexit path now need to be cleared in the same spirit, including urgent resolution of the Irish border.”
James Stewart, head of Brexit for KPMG:
“I’m glad to see that terms have been agreed on transition– but we should remember that this is a contract that’s been written but not signed.
“Today’s progress, although substantial and positive, will make little difference to business leaders in their Brexit planning. Legal certainty is what counts. So until we have legal certainty, our clients will continue to take action to prepare themselves for a ‘no-deal’ scenario.”
Ross Denton, Trade Partner at Baker McKenzie:
“Businesses should welcome this agreement as a step in the right direction, as it affords them more time after the UK leaves the EU in order to make the crucial preparations for what comes next.
“But it is only a step, as this might not actually be enough time for both businesses and the UK Government. It is unfortunate that there is no clause in the agreement allowing for an extension, if one is needed.”
Keir Starmer, Brexit spokesman for UK’s opposition Labour Party:
“This agreement could have been signed months ago but ministers wasted time fighting among themselves, holding out on negotiating objectives that they have failed to achieve and pursuing their reckless red lines.
“It is welcome that they have finally struck a deal on transition and now the government must prioritize negotiating a final agreement that protects jobs, the economy and guarantees there will be no hard border in Northern Ireland.”
Lawmaker Chuka Umunna, leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign which is opposed to Brexit:
“Despite once claiming they held all the cards in the negotiations, in the end the Brexiters have been prepared to compromise and surrender on almost every single point.
“On the divorce bill, on the primacy of European law, on freedom of movement, on fisheries, the Government has yet again capitulated. We should be in no doubt that this will be the shape of things to come in the negotiations over the future relationship.
“With no clarity on what Britain wants from the negotiations and with the prospect of a cliff-edge merely pushed back a little further, it makes no sense to plunge into the transition period at all.”
Paul Everitt, Chief Executive of Aerospace, defense, security and space trade association ADS:
“Negotiators must now focus on reaching agreement on key aspects of our trading and regulatory relationships with the EU, where failing to reach a deal would create substantial costs and disruption for industry.
“Our sectors need assurance that after the UK leaves the EU we will not face burdensome new customs requirements and will continue our participation in successful pan-European regulatory regimes like the European Aviation Safety Agency and European Chemicals Agency.”
Ian Wright, Director General of the UK’s Food and Drink Federation:
“While it is positive to see how much has been agreed so far, particularly in relation to citizens’ rights, and a time-limited transition period, FDF has long supported a transition period of at least two years.
“Food and drink manufacturers are now looking for serious reassurance from government that will not press ahead at any economic cost and that they will be flexible if systems - particularly customs – are not ready in 21 months’ time.
“Similarly, negotiations must avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, where ingredients, finished products and workers cross the border many times a day. Until the appropriate technological solutions can be found, then the option of a regulatory backstop must be left on the table.”
Reporting by Kate Holton and William Schomberg; editing by Guy Faulconbridge