Brexit White Paper – the key points
“Many have remarked how odd it is that today's White Paper has been published immediately after Parliament voted on Article 50, rather than beforehand. “Now that we have seen it, it is clear that it wouldn’t have had any impact on the vote – with some minor exceptions, this doesn’t go very much further than Theresa May did in her speech last month. “There is still very much the sense of a Government feeling its way and hedging its bets. Pointedly, the document’s title – The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union – has an element of have-your-cake-and-eat-it about it that will be a lot harder to achieve than it sounds. “So many elements are as expected – the desire to keep an open border with Ireland while controlling migration, the Great Repeal Bill designed to effectively keep European law on the statute, at least for the time being, and the repeated assertion that changes will be phased in rather than implemented overnight. “As a wish-list, it does its job - but as a clear framework for Brexit it falls well short and doesn’t move us on very far. All of it depends on co-operation from the EU – it remains to be seen what the Plan B is, or even if there is one, and crucially what our partners in the EU think about it all.”
The Government today published its official policy document setting out its plans for Britain leaving the EU.
The White Paper does not go much further than the detail outlined in Theresa May’s speech last month, but here are the key points to highlight:
- The foreword by the Prime Minister argues that it is time to make a “success” of Brexit.
- The White Paper calls for legal certainty and clarity. The government will introduce the Great Repeal Bill to remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and convert the ‘acquis’ – the body of existing EU law – into domestic law. This means that, wherever practical and appropriate, the same rules and laws will apply on the day after we leave the EU as they did before.
- The White Paper stresses the sovereignty of the UK and the fact that laws will now be made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast and will be based on the specific interests and values of the UK. It implies that the Scottish parliament, the Welsh assembly and the Northern Ireland assembly will get control over powers currently exercised by Brussels, but the White Paper is not specific about exactly what powers will go where.
- Immigration law is set to change and the government says it will design the immigration system to ensure that we are able to control the numbers of people who come to the UK from the EU. It means the Free Movement Directive will no longer apply and the migration of EU nationals will be subject to UK law. Crucially, the White Paper says that implementing new immigration arrangements for EU nationals will be “complex” and there will be a “phased process” to give businesses enough time to plan and prepare for new arrangements.
- One of the key principles is protecting workers’ rights as the government converts EU law into UK legislation. This will give certainty and stability to employers and employees alike.
- The government will prioritise securing the “freest and most frictionless trade” possible in goods and services between the UK and the EU. The government will not be seeking membership of the Single Market, but will pursue instead a “new strategic partnership” with the EU, including an “ambitious and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement and a new customs agreement”.
- The paper outlines the fact that London should remain a “European global financial centre”.
- The paper says that once we have left the EU, decisions on how taxpayers’ money will be spent will be made in the UK. As the UK will no longer be members of the Single Market, the country will not be required to make vast contributions to the EU budget.
- The paper details the need to foster new trade agreements globally.
- The paper includes a section on ensuring Britain remains a global hub for science and innovation.
- The paper details “avoiding a disruptive cliff-edge” and that the government wants to deliver “a smooth, mutually beneficial exit”, but that this will require a “coherent and coordinated approach” on both sides. It means consideration will be given for “phasing in” new arrangements.
- Article 50 will be invoked before the end of March. As set out in Article 50, the Treaties of the EU will cease to apply to the UK when the withdrawal agreement enters into force, or failing that, two years from the day we submit our notification, unless there is a unanimous agreement with the other 27 Member States to extend the process.
- The final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU will be put to a vote in both Houses of Parliament.