Here are the key points from Britain's 'white paper' Brexit plan

Negotiating aims will adhere to Theresa May’s 12 principles in securing a good EU exit deal, which would then be put before both houses of parliament, says Arj Singh.            

The British government has set out its negotiating strategy for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Launching the keenly awaited, 77-page document, in the House of Commons, the Brexit secretary, David Davis, said it confirmed prime minister Theresa May’s vision of “an independent and truly global United Kingdom”.

Confirming that the UK’s strategy would be guided by the 12 principles set out by Ms May in her Lancaster House speech last month, Mr Davis said the British government was aiming for “a new, positive, and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union that works in our mutual interest”.

The white paper, entitled ‘The United Kingdom’s Exit From, And New Partnership With, The European Union’, was published a day after British MPs voted overwhelmingly to permit Mrs May to press ahead with withdrawal negotiations under Article 50 of the EU treaties.

The paper details how the British government intends to deliver on Ms May’s 12 objectives of certainty and clarity: taking control of laws; strengthening the union; protecting free-movement arrangements with Ireland; controlling immigration; securing rights for EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU; protecting workers’ rights; ensuring free trade with European markets; securing new trade agreements with other countries; promoting science and innovation; co-operating with EU states on fighting crime and terrorism; and delivering a “smooth, orderly” Brexit.

Here are the key points:

  • Trade: The UK will leave the single market, but seek a free-trade agreement with the EU to ensure the “most frictionless trade possible”.

It will strike a new customs agreement, which may involve leaving the tariff-free customs union or remaining a partial signatory.

Because Britain has zero tariffs on goods and common regulations with the EU, a new trade deal could “take in elements” of current single-market arrangements.

UK taxpayers will no longer pay “vast” contributions into the Brussels budget, but may make an “appropriate” payment to take part in certain programmes.

The British government will attempt to strike trade deals with countries outside the EU.

  • The Irish border: The UK will seek to maintain the soft border between the North and the Republic of Ireland, by protecting the Common Travel Area, which was set up in 1923, long before the EU.

The British government wants “seamless and frictionless” trade and movement of people across the border.

  • Immigration: Britain will regain full control of the number of people coming to the country from the EU, and free movement of people will no longer apply.

The new immigration system will be designed to help fill skills shortages and welcome “genuine” students.

However, any new approach could be “phased in” to give businesses and individuals time to plan and prepare for the new arrangements.

Businesses and communities will be consulted throughout, and the UK parliament will have an “important role” in shaping the new system, which is likely to be brought forward in its own legislation.

  • The rights of EU nationals living in the UK: British ministers will seek in negotiations to secure the rights of the 2.8m EU nationals who live in the UK.

However, they will only do so when similar rights are guaranteed for the one million British immigrants in continental Europe.

The British government said it wants to resolve the issue before formal negotiations, but not all EU member states support this approach.

  • Sovereignty: Britain will leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, but seek to set up separate resolution mechanisms for things like trade disputes.

British ministers say arbitration systems are common in trade deals the EU strikes with other countries, such as with Canada or South Korea.

  • Avoiding a cliff-edge Brexit: The British government is likely to phase in new rules, after leaving the EU, to give businesses and the public sector time to plan and prepare.

Ministers will seek to agree a deal on the new relationship within the two-year formal exit process, under Article 50, and then have a “phased process of implementation”, before being free of Brussels regulations.

  • Security and defence: Britain will continue to collaborate with the EU to fight crime and terrorism, with a focus on operational and practical cross-border co-operation, while continuing to back European interests around the world, including potential support for sanctions.
  • Workers’ rights: The British government will protect workers’ rights enshrined in EU law and attempt to enhance them, as it takes back powers from Brussels.
  • Scotland, Wales, and the North: The British government says it will strengthen the union by devolving powers previously covered by EU laws, in areas where the home nations already have some competence, such as agriculture, the environment, and transport.
  • Providing clarity: Ministers will provide certainty to reassure business, the public sector, and the public during the negotiation talks.

The final deal will be put to a vote in both British houses of parliament.

  • Science and innovation: Britain will seek an agreement to continue to collaborate with European countries on science, research, and technology initiatives.
  • Air travel: The British government will attempt to hammer out a deal so that Britons can continue to enjoy affordable flights, as they do in the EU’s internal aviation market.
  • Financial services: The British government says it will seek the “freest possible” trade in financial services between the UK and EU, pointing out that provisions exist for countries outside the bloc to do business across the EU, in a similar way to how “passporting” arrangements work for the city currently.
  • Agriculture: Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy, which, at £58bn in 2014, took up nearly 40% of the EU’s budget, will give the UK “a significant opportunity to design new, better, and more efficient policies for delivering sustainable and productive farming, land management and rural communities”.


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