As announced by PM Theresa May at PMQs the government published its official policy document, White Paper, setting out the plan for leaving the European Union.
It is called ‘The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union.’
Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis said in his preface to the White Paper:
‘The referendum result was not a vote to turn our back on Europe.
Rather, it was a vote of confidence in the UK’s ability to succeed in the world – an expression of optimism that our best days are still to come.
This document sets out our plan for the strong new partnership we want to build with the EU.
Whatever the outcome of our negotiations, we will seek a more open, outward-looking, confident and fairer UK, which works for all.’
Why has there been a White Paper?
There has been mounting pressure on the government by opposition parties, and within the Conservative Party, to set out more detail.
This is despite Mrs. May’s speech at Lancaster House setting out what Brexit means and confirming that the UK will not seek membership of the European Single Market.
Following the decision by the Supreme Court stating the executive (UK government) could not trigger Article 50.
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty officially signals our intention to leave the UK and the government wants it triggered by the end of March 2017.
What does the White Paper say?
The Government is treading a fine line to not show its hand in the negotiations.
They state the government will "keep our positions closely held and will need at times to be careful about the commentary we make public", with MPs offered a vote on the final deal.
The 77 page White Paper is framed around 12 principles. They mirror the Lancaster House speech and you can also download the full document (External Link).
- Providing certainty and clarity – We will provide certainty wherever we can as we approach the negotiations.
- Taking control of our own laws – We will take control of our own statute book and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the UK.
- Strengthening the Union – We will secure a deal that works for the entire UK – for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and all parts of England. We remain fully committed to the Belfast Agreement and its successors.
- Protecting our strong and historic ties with Ireland and maintaining the Common
- Travel Area – We will work to deliver a practical solution that allows for the maintenance of the Common Travel Area, whilst protecting the integrity of our immigration system and which protects our strong ties with Ireland.
- Controlling immigration – We will have control over the number of EU nationals coming to the UK.
- Securing rights for EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU – We want to secure the status of EU citizens who are already living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in other Member States, as early as we can.
- Protecting workers’ rights – We will protect and enhance existing workers’ rights.
- Ensuring free trade with European markets – We will forge a new strategic partnership with the EU, including a wide reaching, bold and ambitious free trade agreement, and will seek a mutually beneficial new customs agreement with the EU.
- Securing new trade agreements with other countries – We will forge ambitious free trade relationships across the world.
- Ensuring the UK remains the best place for science and innovation – We will remain at the vanguard of science and innovation and will seek continued close collaboration with our European partners.
- Cooperating in the fight against crime and terrorism – We will continue to work with the EU to preserve European security, to fight terrorism, and to uphold justice across Europe.
- Delivering a smooth, orderly exit from the EU – We will seek a phased process of implementation, in which both the UK and the EU institutions and the remaining EU Member States prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us.
Reaction from Her Majesty's Opposition
The Labour Party said the document "says nothing" and had been produced too late for "meaningful" scrutiny. They want a "meaningful vote" that could send the prime minister back to the negotiating table if the deal is deemed unsatisfactory.
Last night MPs backed the European Union Bill (asking to trigger Article 50) by 498 votes to 114 in the House of Commons. The next step is for the Bill to enter the Committee phase where Labour has promised to try to introduce amendments.
Of course, the Labour Party has its own internal issues. 47 Labour MPs rebelled (did not vote for) the Bill this including 13 members of the Shadow Cabinet. This is significant because Jeremy Corbyn ‘whipped MPs’ requesting they vote in favour.
More about Brexit, Article 50 and the Supreme Court
Read Zoe Lyne's BRIT Review analysing their decision
Watch the Lancaster House Speech