The UK Government’s Brexit White Paper was published last Thursday. The paper closely follows Prime Minister May’s keynote speech at Lancaster House on Tuesday 17th January. There is little new content in the paper, which focuses on the UK Government’s 12 core principles, though there has been some fleshing out of a few points from May’s speech, including:
On process and scrutiny (Principle 1 – Providing certainty and clarity): The paper confirms that a White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill will be produced that “provides more detail about our approach”. In relation to the body of EU law which the Great Repeal Bill will preserve into UK law, the Bill will enable changes to be made by secondary legislation to ensure that the UK legal system continues to function correctly outside the EU and to address any deficiencies in the preserved law. However “significant policy changes will be underpinned by other primary legislation – allowing Parliament the opportunity to debate and scrutinise the changes”. For example, separate bills are expected to be brought forward on immigration and customs. Ministers will provide regular updates to Parliament and the Government will ensure there is “ample opportunity for both Houses to debate the key issues arising from EU exit”. The Government will “ensure that the UK Parliament receives at least as much information as that received by members of the European Parliament”.
On sovereignty (Principle 2 – Taking control of our own laws): The paper recognises that the implementation of the future UK-EU relationship will require a system for the fair and efficient resolution of disputes. Various options are mentioned, including that which applies to the new EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
On trade with the EU (Principle 8 – Ensuring free trade with European markets): In relation to Financial Services, the paper states: “In our new strategic partnership agreement we will be aiming for the freest possible trade in financial services between the UK and EU Member States.” The paper recognises that in highly integrated sectors such as Financial Services there is a “legitimate interest” in mutual co-operation and that the UK will seek to establish “strong cooperative oversight arrangements with the EU”. The Government has an “open mind” on how new customs arrangements with the EU will be implemented and will work with businesses and infrastructure providers to ensure those processes are as “frictionless as possible”, including through the use of digital technologies.
On foreign trade agreements (Principle 9 – Securing new trade agreements with other countries): The paper notes that the United States is the UK’s single biggest export market on a country-by-country basis. Work is underway to define the Government’s approach to trade policy and, in due course, it “will want to consult business and other interested parties on the detailed positions it should adopt”.
On an orderly exit (Principle 12 – Delivering a smooth, orderly exit from the EU): The paper notes that the EU treaties will cease to apply to the UK from the earlier of: (i) the entry into force of the exit agreement; and (ii) a period of two years from the Article 50 notice, “unless there is a unanimous agreement with the other 27 Member States to extend the process” (a point not mentioned in May’s original speech, which focused on the Government’s aim of agreeing the future relationship in the two year period).