Today MEPs adopted the second reading of the European Union (withdrawal agreement). The bill sets out how the UK will leave the EU. The withdrawal agreement came into force on 1 February 2020, after being adopted on 17 October 2019, at the same time as the political declaration setting the framework for the future partnership between the EU and the UK. After an unprecedented vote on 4 December 2018, MEPs ruled that the UK government was not respecting Parliament because it refused to give Parliament full legal advice on the consequences of its proposed withdrawal terms.  The focus of the consultation was on the legal effect of the „backstop“ agreement for Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom with regard to the CUSTOMS border between the EU and the United Kingdom and its impact on the Good Friday agreement that led to the end of the unrest in Northern Ireland, including whether , according to the proposals, the UK would be certain that it would be able to leave the EU in a practical sense. The agreement defines the goods, services and processes associated with them. Any provision of goods or services legally put on the market before leaving the EU may be made available to consumers in the UK or in the EU Member States (Article 40-41). Read our story on the passage of the Second Reading Withdrawal Treaty Act here. The Guardian`s political editor Heather Stewart writes that this triggered Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union, which sets out the procedure for withdrawing an EU member state, thus opening a two-year countdown to withdrawal. The Northern Ireland Protocol, known as the Irish Backstop, was an annex to the November 2018 draft agreement outlining provisions to avoid a hard border in Ireland after the UK`s withdrawal from the European Union. The protocol provided for a provision of the safety net to deal with the circumstances in which satisfactory alternative arrangements were to come into force at the end of the transition period. This project has been replaced by a new protocol that will be described as follows. The agreement was revised as part of the Johnson Department renegotiation in 2019.
The amendments fit about 5% of the text.  Charles Michel, President of the European Council, welcomed the vote and tweeted that it was an „important step in the process of ratifying Article 50“. He added that „equal conditions of competition remain a must for all future relations.“ He recalled the EU`s call for fair competition in exchange for a free trade agreement with zero tariffs and zero quotas. The EU and the UK have reached an agreement on the withdrawal agreement with a revised protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland (abolition of the „backstop“) and a revised political declaration. On the same day, the European Council (Article 50) approved these texts. However, such an agreement would not remove all border controls and would do nothing for the service sector. The withdrawal agreement provides for a transitional period until 31 December 2020, during which time the UK will remain in the internal market, to ensure the smooth flow of trade until a long-term relationship is concluded. If no agreement is reached by then, the UK will leave the single market without a trade deal on 1 January 2021.
The withdrawal agreement is closely linked to a non-binding political declaration on future relations between the EU and the UK.