The Brexit negotiations met and passed a significant stage in the process last week, with the agreement in principle that sufficient progress has been made in settling the terms of our departure, to allow discussions to move on to the future relationship of the UK with the European Union. This agreement addresses one of the main concerns that some constituents have brought to me, where they or close family members are living in the UK but remain nationals of other EU member states. A clear agreement has been reached that UK citizens will have the right to remain living in the European Union, where they are resident in another member state, and the right to bring close family members from this country to live with them. The same rights will also be given to EU citizens living in this country. This means that those who are resident here when we leave the EU at the end of March 2019, will have the right to remain in the UK.
Another key area of agreement was on the future border on the island of Ireland, which all parties have agreed should be kept open, allowing people and goods to flow freely. This principle also has significant bearing on the potential impact of Brexit on Kent, in terms of how we manage the border points at Dover and the Channel Tunnel. To support the free movement of goods, we have proposed maintaining regulatory alignment with the rest of the European Single Market and Customs Union. Should there be a divergence, as with the freedom to make and apply our own rules we may wish to differ from those set by the European Union, we would need to create the infrastructure necessary to allow trade to continue. This could include computerized systems to pre-register cross channel trade and electronic scanners at the points of entry and departure, to track vehicles coming in and out of the country. I discussed this last week at a meeting with one of the leading road haulage businesses based in our area, and they believed that such a scheme can be created to allow goods to be moved without delay.
The agreement reached in Brussels last week, also states areas where we will continue to make payments to the EU. This would cover costs relating to our continued membership of the European Single Market, during the two-year transitional period following Brexit in 2019. We have also agreed in principle that we will continue to fund projects we had committed to support as a member state, up to the end of the current budgetary period, which ends in December 2020.
The next phase in the negotiations will address our future trading relationship, and this will be of vital interest to the whole country, but particularly to everyone who lives and works in East Kent. It is welcome news that progress is being made in the Brexit negotiations, but we must also bear in mind the important caveat written into the agreement published last Friday, that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.’