Official talks between the EU and the UK on a withdrawal agreement in accordance with Article 50 TEU began in June 2017. On 8 December 2017, negotiators reached a common understanding on the priority issues of the withdrawal deal (citizens’ rights, the financial settlement upon the UK’s withdrawal, and the situation of Northern Ireland), set out in a joint report. A week later, the European Council decided that sufficient progress had been achieved on the first-phase issues, and adopted guidelines on transition, thereby allowing the talks to proceed to the second phase. On 28 February 2018, the European Commission issued a proposed withdrawal agreement, translating the commitments contained in the joint report into a draft legal text. The Commission’s draft included provisions on a transitional period, based on the supplementary Council negotiating directives of 29 January 2018. Discussions continued on the basis of this text.
On 19 March 2018, after weeks of intense negotiations, progress was made on some of the key issues of the withdrawal deal and an agreement was reached on the transitional arrangements to be put in place following Brexit. The Commission published a new version of the draft agreement. In this document, provisions in white and yellow signify that negotiations are still needed, whereas text in green indicates agreement has been reached. The European Council conclusions of 23 March 2018 welcomed the ‘agreement reached by the negotiators on parts of … the withdrawal agreement covering citizens’ rights, the financial settlement, a number of other withdrawal issues and the transition,’ but underlined that ‘nothing was agreed until everything was agreed’ and that further progress in negotiations was dependent on respecting all commitments undertaken. At the same time the 27 EU Member States (EU-27) approved the start of negotiations to reach an overall understanding on the future framework of EU-UK relations, which would be annexed as a Political Declaration to the withdrawal agreement and referenced in the agreement.