PM says Brexit White Paper delivers ‘the Brexit people voted for’

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Media captionSpeaker John Bercow and MPs were unhappy at the White Paper’s late arrival

The government has published its blueprint for UK relations with the EU, with Theresa May saying it “delivers on the Brexit people voted for”.

But Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said it was a “bad deal for Britain”.

The long-awaited White Paper is aimed at ensuring trade co-operation, with no hard border for Northern Ireland, and global trade deals for the UK.

It fleshes out the Chequers agreement that sparked the resignations of Boris Johnson and David Davis.

The UK is hoping the EU will back the proposals in the White Paper so an exit deal can be struck by the Autumn, ahead of the UK’s official departure from the EU in March.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he would analyse them with the European Parliament and member states and was “looking forward” to negotiations with the UK next week.

The plans in the White Paper were set out to MPs by new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – but his speech was halted shortly after it had begun amid chaotic scenes.

Speaker John Bercow said MPs were unhappy that the White Paper had not yet been made available. Mr Raab said the paper would be made available “as soon as is practicably possible”, to more shouts from MPs.

Former Labour minister Ben Bradshaw could be seen throwing copies of the document to MPs on his own bench – at which point Mr Bercow decided to suspend sitting for five minutes to give MPs time to read it, before Mr Raab was able to resume his speech.

The Brexit secretary said the White Paper was a blueprint for a “principled, pragmatic and ambitious future partnership between the UK and the EU”.

“Now, it is time for the EU to respond in kind, we approach these negotiations with a spirit of pragmatism, compromise and, indeed, friendship, I hope. I trust that the EU will engage with our proposals in the same spirit,” he told MPs.

“There should be a firm commitment in the withdrawal agreement requiring the framework for the future relationship to be translated into legal text as soon as possible.”

Asked in Brussels about US President Donald Trump’s claim that the British people were not getting the Brexit they voted for, Mrs May said: “We have come to an agreement on the proposal we are putting to the European Union which absolutely delivers on the Brexit we voted for.

“They voted for us to take back control of our money, our law and our borders. That is exactly what we will do.”

The details in the White Paper were hammered out at a summit of ministers last Friday at the prime minister’s country residence, Chequers.

But the plan has already sparked fury among many Conservative MPs, who fear it will lead to Brexit in name only,

The proposals also triggered the resignations of Dominic Raab’s predecessor as Brexit secretary, David Davis, and ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson, from the cabinet.

The White Paper sets out four areas of future co-operation:

  • The economic partnership between the EU and the UK
  • Security co-operation
  • Future co-operation in areas like aviation and nuclear power
  • The “institutional frameworks” that will enforce the agreement

In a foreword to the White Paper, the prime minister says the agreement will “require pragmatism and compromise” from both sides.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The proposals were approved by cabinet last Friday but soon led to a big political fallout

The document repeatedly acknowledges that the UK will have more barriers to trade in some areas than there are today.

It sets out plans for what is described as an “association agreement”, with “joint institutional arrangements” between the EU and the UK.

The paper says that the UK will end the free of movement of people, but suggests EU citizens would be allowed to come to the UK without visas to do “paid work in limited and clearly defined circumstances”.

No more detail of this was given by officials on Thursday morning, says the BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg, but they rejected suggestions that it could open the door to freedom of movement for workers.


Paper stresses the UK can’t have it all

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A free trade zone for goods is at the heart of the proposals

Analysis by BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg

Some MPs are already calling it a “hard Brexit” for services, even though, overall, the deal suggests much closer ties to the rest of the EU than many Brexiteers had desired.

For the prime minister and the government it’s an important step in spelling out the reality of leaving – more political freedom does, this paper suggests, come at a cost.

And it is a compromise, which by its very nature, can’t please everyone.

Read Laura’ full blog


The paper also suggests that there could be “reciprocal” arrangements with the EU for the payment of certain limited benefits or social security.

Again, officials denied that this would mean widespread access to the UK benefits systems for EU nationals after Brexit, says our correspondent.

Both of these elements will be subject to the upcoming negotiation.

As the Chequers agreement set out on Friday, the UK would accept a “common rule book” for trade in goods, but not services.

The government’s aim is to preserve free trade in that part of the economy and avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.

The White Paper also proposes the setting up of a “governing body”, made up of UK and EU ministers, and then a “joint committee” of officials, which would enforce the agreement.

Officially, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK would come to an end.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dominic Raab is fronting the plans after David Davis quit earlier this week

British citizens or businesses would no longer be able to take issues to the European Court of Justice – and the court would no longer be able to make judgements on UK cases.

But the White Paper accepts that the European Court of Justice will be “the interpreter of EU rules” that the UK has agreed to follow in the “common rule book”.

That phrasing is likely to anger Brexiteers, says Laura Kuenssberg.

The White Paper also sets out in more detail the government’s proposed customs system, the Facilitated Customs Arrangement for goods and agri-foods, where it plans for the UK to collect some EU tariffs.

The paper confirms that the UK will not seek “mutual recognition” in the services sector, which makes up the vast majority of the economy.

A leaked version of an earlier draft of the White Paper, put together by the Brexit department under David Davis, envisaged that there would be such an arrangement.

Some MPs have already expressed concern that by pursuing a looser arrangement with the rest of the EU on services it means a “hard Brexit” for the majority of the economy while the goods sector stays closely tied to the single market, although technically not inside it.

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