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I'm keeping this edition of the newsletter brief, as events may have overtaken its contents by the time you read it. Despite the fevered atmosphere, I thought it useful at least to share the links to the official documents published by the UK and the EU following the agreement at negotiators' level on Wednesday evening.
Here is the draft Withdrawal Agreement (585 pages). Here is the Outline of the Political Declaration setting out the Framework for the Future Relationship (7 pages).
A UK government Explainer for the Withdrawal Agreement (56 pages – but large text!) has been published.
Definitely the best place to start is the Explainer. It is a quicker read than the 56 pages suggest, and it does summarise in a useful way the much denser text of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Plan beats no plan?
With 134 days to go before the UK leaves the Union, this is the only plan out there. Various EU players have in the last 24 hours made clear their view that "this is it". Given that, here is what remains the official timetable to ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement.
25 November 2018: Special meeting of the European Council to endorse the Withdrawal Agreement. This will take place if, in Donald Tusk's words, "nothing extraordinary happens" between now and that date.
Mid- to late-December 2018: The big one. The House of Commons "meaningful vote" on the Withdrawal Agreement and on the Political Declaration, as required by section 13 of the Withdrawal Act 2018, is currently expected at some point in mid- to late-December. If this vote takes place and the government wins it, it is at this point that "no deal" becomes much less likely.
Early in the New Year: The European Parliament votes on the Withdrawal Agreement. If the Member States have signed off (at the 25 November 2018 Council meeting) and the House of Commons has passed the meaningful vote, the European Parliament is expected to vote to approve the deal.
January and February 2019: The UK government needs to get the Withdrawal Agreement Act onto the statute book. This is the legislation required to give effect to various parts of the Withdrawal Agreement in UK law. (We haven’t seen a draft of this yet; it is different from the Withdrawal Act 2018.) This may offer a last-ditch opportunity for those opposed to the deal in the UK to try and stop it, or at least to raise obstacles. To reach this stage, however, the Commons would have approved the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration via the meaningful vote.
Before 29 March 2019: Ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement by the UK and the EU.
11.00 p.m. (London time) on 29 March 2019: The UK leaves the Union and enters into the status quo implementation (transition) period that is currently scheduled to run until the end of 2020.
I am told we can expect further no deal information for business from the UK government in the second half of November.
If you enjoy speculation about how this might all end up, here is the Centre for European Reform's note of this morning on five possible outcomes if the government loses the meaningful vote.