Government white paper
Earlier today the UK Government published a white paper on its plans for Brexit and its objectives for a new partnership between the EU and the UK. The paper is organised around the 12 priorities set out by Theresa May in her 17 January speech at Lancaster House, and is largely a reiteration of the statements she made in this speech. The points on which the paper has provided additional information and clarity are:
Future white papers: There will be a white paper on the Great Repeal Bill, which as well as returning powers from the EU to the UK will retain the substance of existing EU laws as they were immediately before the exit date. Preserved laws should continue to be interpreted in the same way as at present. Significant policy changes will also be underpinned by primary legislation. The Government also expects to bring separate bills on matters such as immigration and customs.
Information sharing with the UK Parliament: Throughout the negotiation process the Government will ensure that the UK Parliament receives “as much information as that received by members of the European Parliament”. Under the Framework Agreement on Relations between the European Parliament and European Commission, the European Parliament must be provided with any relevant information at the same time as the Council. It is kept up-to-date throughout the negotiating process and can offer its opinion to the Commission.
- All European Structural and Investment Funds projects signed, or with agreements in place before the Autumn Statement 2016, will be fully funded post-Brexit, including agri-environment schemes under the Common Agricultural Policy (“CAP”). Projects signed after the Autumn Statement 2016 will be honoured by HM Treasury post-Brexit if they provide “strong value for money and are in line with domestic strategic priorities”.
- For bids made to the EU Commission by UK organisations, including Horizon 2020, organisations should continue to bid and the UK Government will ensure payment when funds are awarded. HM Treasury will underwrite payment post-Brexit.
- Funding levels under Pillar 1 of CAP will remain until the end of the Multiannual Financial Framework (2020).
- These assurances are also offered to the devolved administrations.
Dispute resolution with the EU: The UK will seek to agree a new dispute resolution mechanism with the EU, with examples of mechanisms such as CETA and WTO included as an annex to the white paper. The UK Government has indicated that different mechanisms could apply to different agreements if required.
Devolved administrations: No decisions currently taken by the devolved administrations will be removed from them. The UK will ensure more decisions are devolved in the process of bringing decision back to the UK. The UK will ensure no new barriers to living and transacting business in the UK are created. Discussions on the proposals of the devolved administrations are continuing, including through the Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations. The white paper briefly acknowledges the “unique relationships” of the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and the Overseas Territories, including Gibraltar, with the EU.
Immigration: There may be a phased process of implementation for new immigration arrangements for EU nationals. Existing EU students and those starting courses up until 2017-18 will continue to be eligible for student loans and home fee status, and postgraduate students will continue to be funded for courses commencing 2017-18.
- Goods: The British Standards Institution will remain part of the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission. Customs controls should be as frictionless as possible, and the Government points out that HMRC operates one of the world’s most efficient customs regimes, using electronic systems.
- Agriculture, food and fisheries: The paper mentions new policies for farming and the importance of fishing in UK waters to the rest of the EU.
- Services: The UK continues to be committed to Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) negotiations.
- Financial services: The paper does little more than recognise that there will be a “legitimate interest in mutual cooperation arrangements that recognise the interconnectedness of markets”.
- Energy, transport and communications networks: The white paper flags the importance of avoiding disruption to the all-Ireland single energy market and continued collaboration on nuclear matters despite leaving Euratom. The UK will negotiate new bilateral agreements in the aviation sector to replace those that the EU has with countries such as the U.S.