Brexit: What we know


London (AFP)

The countdown to Brexit hits the one-year mark on Thursday, although many details about the future relationship between Britain and the European Union remain up in the air.

Here's an outline of what we know so far about the country's departure from the EU:

- Departure date -

Britain is set to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, almost three years after the referendum vote for Brexit. Britain triggered the two-year Article 50 withdrawal process in 2017.

This date is defined in EU law and can only be extended through agreement by all 28 member states.

- Withdrawal terms -

An interim deal was struck in December on the priority issues of the separation -- Britain's financial settlement, the Irish border and citizens' rights.

Britain has agreed to pay into the EU budget until the end of 2020 and meet its share of commitments made in the past but not yet paid out, putting the total cost at between £35 billion and £39 billion (39-44 billion euros, $48-54 billion).

The deal also states that EU citizens living in Britain and British citizens living in the EU before exit day would be able to claim permanent residency status for themselves and their families.

On Ireland, London has committed to avoid a "hard border" with checkpoints between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland, which all sides agree is vital to maintaining the 1998 Good Friday peace accords.

Prime Minister Theresa May has conceded that the EU's "backstop" proposal, in which Northern Ireland stays in a customs union with the EU post-Brexit, could be a possible solution.

She had earlier said that Britain would never allow the EU to "undermine" its constitutional integrity.

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, has said leaders would assess Britain's proposals for the border in June.

- Post-Brexit transition -

Britain and the EU have agreed the terms of a transition period to help ease the withdrawal and avoid a post-Brexit "cliff edge".

The deal effectively maintains Britain's ties with the EU until December 2020, although it will have no voting rights.

During this period Britain would keep paying into the EU budget as planned, trade on the same terms and accept European rules and regulations.

Britain will also grant any EU citizens arriving in Britain during the transition period the same rights as those arriving earlier, but it will be able to sign trade deals with countries outside the EU, which can come into force in 2021.

May came under fire from fishermen after agreeing to let the EU to continue to set quotas and allow European fishing vessels into British waters.

- Future relationship -

During a major speech earlier this month, May confirmed Britain will leave the European single market and customs union, calling instead for a free trade agreement "covering more sectors and co-operating more fully than any free trade agreement anywhere in the world today".

She has rejected existing models of trading relationships as they would require Britain to maintain free movement of workers, EU judicial oversight or give up its right to strike trade deals with other countries.

The prime minister says she wants a "bespoke" deal, but the EU has warned that Britain cannot cherry-pick what it wants.

The speech appeared to heal splits between Brexit hardliners and pro-EU factions within her cabinet, with talks on trade expected to begin with the bloc in April.