The EU ministers have made a final decision on the directives for the second phase of the negotiations with the UK on Brexit. The Ministers decided in December 2017 that enough progress had been made in the first phase on the financial settlement, the Irish-North Irish border and citizens’ rights.
These directives are EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s instructions. According to these instructions, the transition period should be seen as a period where the UK without institutional representation has still to follow the “acquis communautaire” (the present EU legislation), without having a stake in the EU decision-making process. During the transition period the UK stays in the customs Union and the single market. Finally, the UK has to meet obligations from treaties with third countries such as Free Trade Agreements. The transition will start from Brexit date (second quarter of 2019) to 31 December 2020.
The general form of a status quo transition seems to be acceptable for the UK, but there is still scope for a disagreement on details.
For ESC, it is important to have clear dates for the transition. This would create a legal certainty. For customs-related challenges, it would be desirable to have a detailed programme of fading out the customs union. Such time schedule would enable companies to plan a seamless transition into the full Brexit situation. This could be seen as a reverse accession process.
Please see here for the background information from the Press Office of the Council of the European Union.