Ever since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the big question has been what departure will actually look like in March 2019, when the breakup kicks in.
Hard Brexit? Soft Brexit? Delayed Brexit?
Now, Britain has asked for an extension of sorts, a "transition period" to ease out of the EU without an abrupt impact on businesses. And the European Union has agreed to a temporary plan that you might sum up as:
Brexit? What Brexit?
Under instructions for the EU negotiator just approved by the other member countries, the United Kingdom would spend March 2019 through December 2020 acting just like an EU member ... minus the voting power.
All existing EU laws and policies would still apply. Any new EU laws would also apply (a provision the U.K. is objecting to). The U.K. would still answer to some European courts.
In short, the status quo would be enforced, except that the U.K. wouldn't have any say in EU decisions.
"The U.K. must know these rules of the game and accept them in the first place," EU negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday, according to Politico Europe.
The instructions for the negotiator are not a final deal, but they seem likely to stick. The countries in the European Union voted to approve those guidelines in just two minutes, Reuters reports.
The British government has largely welcomed the plan, with a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May saying the proposal was well-aligned with the British position, the wire service reports. After all, a "transition period" was requested by the British in the first place.
Needless to say, though, fans of Brexit are not exactly pleased by the thought of giving up all power in the EU while remaining subject to all laws and limitations.
The Associated Press has more:
"In London, Brexit Secretary David Davis played down the impact on Britain's status during the 21-month transition, saying that it's 'not exactly the same as membership — but it's very, very similar.'
" 'The existing regulatory structure will exist, the existing court structure will exist,' Davis told a British parliamentary committee.
"He underlined that Britain would, however, be free during the bridging period to negotiate new trade deals with the wider world, which it is barred from doing while it is an EU member. ...
"Britain is impatient to launch talks on future ties with the EU and in particular on trade, but more guidelines will have to be adopted at a summit of European leaders in March for that to happen, based on progress made by then."