Fri, Jul 13, 2018 - Page 1 News List

UK’s Brexit white paper seeks free movement for some

YEARS IN THE WORKS:The document says little about immigration, but sets out trade proposals in which the UK would act ‘as if in a combined customs territory’

The Guardian

Pro-EU group Open Britain drive a smashed car around Parliament Square on a low-loader yesterday in London.

Photo: Reuters

Businesses should be able to move “their talented people” from the UK to the EU — and vice versa — after Brexit, the British government’s much anticipated strategy white paper says.

The long-awaited document, published yesterday, proposes keeping Britain and the bloc in a free market for goods, with a looser relationship for services.

It also said that the UK is prepared to allow EU citizens to travel freely without a visa for tourism and temporary work, and allow EU students to study in the UK.

Although the white paper insists that there would be an end to the free movement of people at the end of the transition period in December 2020, it said it would be necessary to recognize the “depth of the relationship and close ties between the peoples of the UK and the EU.”

Hard Brexiters had voiced concern that despite the headline commitment to end free movement, EU citizens would still have preferential access to the UK compared with other nations.

The release was greeted with chaotic scenes at the British House of Commons when it became apparent that copies of the document were not immediately available to lawmakers as new British Secretary of State for Exiting the EU Dominic Raab got up to introduce it.

There were shouts from across the chamber, leading House of Commons Speaker John Bercow to suspend proceedings for five minutes as late-arriving copies of the document were flung around the chamber.

There was little detail on how immigration arrangements could work after Brexit, although a white paper has been promised in the autumn. Officials have indicated that the notional cap on net migration at 100,000 per year would remain.

The white paper has been described as the most important document to emerge since the referendum in June 2016.

The UK had evolved its negotiating position with the EU in an approach that “requires pragmatism and compromise from both sides,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said in an introduction to the paper.

Conservatives are expected to study the document to consider whether they want to support a leadership challenge to May.

Under the plans, Britain would stick to a “common rulebook” for goods and agricultural products in return for free trade, without tariffs or border customs checks to avoid disruption to automakers and other manufacturers that source parts from multiple nations.

Britain would act “as if in a combined customs territory” with the EU, using technology at its border to determine whether goods from third countries are bound for Britain or the EU, and charging the appropriate tariffs in those cases.

Free trade would not apply to services, which account for 80 percent of the British economy.

The plan also seeks to keep Britain in major EU agencies, including the European Aviation Safety Agency, the European Medicines Agency and Europol.

Officials said that the new British Financial Conduct Authority would be implemented after the transition period in January 2021, although it is estimated that only 4 percent of goods would be subject to a different EU tariff.

Ministers hope to sign an association agreement with the EU after Brexit to allow “regular dialogue between UK and EU leaders.”

A joint committee and binding independent arbitration would be created to deal with any disputes between the two that UK and EU courts cannot resolve, but it would no longer be possible to refer cases from the UK courts to the European Court of Justice.

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