THE government and the EU Commission announced a provisional agreement after the first stage of exit negotiations yesterday.
Prime Minister Theresa May and Brexit Secretary David Davis flew to Brussels to confirm with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker the text of a joint document setting out proposals on citizens’ rights, the Irish border and Britain’s exit bill.
The financial settlement is estimated at £35-£39 billion.
It covers Britain’s share of the bloc’s budget up to the end of 2020, as well as outstanding debts and liabilities for items such as the pensions of staff at EU institutions.
Mr Juncker said the deal represented “sufficient progress” for negotiations to move on to the trade agreement next Thursday.
The details were finalised by Ms May and DUP leader Arlene Foster, who blocked a previous version of the agreement on Monday with a last-minute objection to proposals that she feared would create a customs border between Northern Ireland and Britain.
Ms Foster said “substantial changes” made since then meant there would be “no red line down the Irish Sea.”
The joint report published by Ms May and Mr Juncker says that, in the absence of an overall trade deal, Britain will maintain “full alignment” with such elements of the EU single market and customs union as are considered key to Good Friday Agreement protocols on Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic.
But Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths said: “This pro-big business, minority Tory regime is loyally carrying out the instructions of its EU business advisory council to tie Britain to the EU single market for the foreseeable future, while paying through the nose for that dubious privilege.”
He said the Irish border conundrum was being used as “the pretext for Britain’s continuing subjection to EU rules and institutions.”
Mr Griffiths cited Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s September warning that single market rules would prohibit a future Labour government from implementing key manifesto pledges, including on public spending, aid for industry and rail renationalisation.
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “As the talks now move on to a discussion about Britain’s future relationship with the EU, Theresa May must seriously reflect on her approach to the negotiations so far.
“We cannot have another year of chaos and confusion or the farcical scenes we saw earlier on in the week that put jobs and the economy at risk.”