Two and a half years after the UK`s withdrawal from the EU, the British cabinet on Wednesday night backed the text of the draft withdrawal agreement drawn up by British and European negotiators, but the consequences have already begun on Thursday with a series of ministerial resignations. The reception of the agreement in the House of Commons ranged from cold to hostile, and the vote was delayed by more than a month. Prime Minister May has received a motion of no confidence within her own party, but the EU has refused to accept further changes. The withdrawal agreement breaks this impasse by providing for the UK to remain in the EU and Northern Ireland customs union in the single market, not only until the end of the transitional period, which is due to end in December 2020, but also until a replacement agreement can be negotiated, or (potentially) indefinitely if no agreement can be reached. The UK`s financial settlement with the EU to meet agreed commitments. The next day, the Council was published. The question was: «What is the legal effect of the United Kingdom`s approval of the protocol to the withdrawal agreement of Ireland and Northern Ireland, including its effects in connection with Articles 5 and 184 of the main withdrawal agreement?» The advice was as follows:  The agreement covers what will happen during the transition period from the date of the UK`s withdrawal from the EU by the end of 2020. However, since this may not be negotiated before the end of the transition period in December 2020, the EU insisted on the establishment of a «backstop» to avoid a hard border until a free trade agreement comes into force. The dispute over what form this backstop was to take prevented the withdrawal agreement from being sealed for so long. 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.
It was this part of the withdrawal agreement that led to its defeat in January, thanks to the hostility of Eurosceptics and trade unionists in Northern Ireland.