London : The European Union has formally approved a divorce agreement with Britain, the first country ever to leave the 28-nation bloc. The deal consists of a legally binding withdrawal agreement that runs more than 580 pages, and a 26-page political declaration on future relations.
Transition period: Britain will leave the EU on March 29 but remain inside the bloc’s single market and be bound by its rules until the end of December 2020, while the two sides work out a new trade relationship. The transition period can be extended for up to two years before July 1, 2020, if both parties decide more time is needed.
Irish border: The deal commits the two sides to a “backstop” solution to guarantee the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland remains free of customs posts or other obstacles. It keeps the U.K. in a customs arrangement with the EU, and will last until superseded by permanent new trade arrangements. Both sides say they hope to have a new deal in place by the end of 2020, so the backstop is never needed.
Divorce bill: Britain agrees to pay about 39 billion pounds ($50 billion) to cover contributions to staff pensions and commitments to EU programs the U.K. made while a member for the funding period that runs to 2020.