UK seeks amicable divorce from EU as Brexit White Paper published

UK seeks amicable divorce from EU as Brexit White Paper published
By Alasdair Sandford

Brexit Minister David Davis said Britain wanted a 'mutually beneficial' deal with the EU, as he unveiled the government's plan to parliament.

The British government has set out its strategy for Brexit in an official policy document presented to parliament.

Avoiding a disruptive cliff-edge will be key

David Davis Britain's Minister for Exiting the European Union

It follows the vote on Wednesday in the lower house the House of Commons, effectively setting the ball rolling.

That was about process, this was about content: the 77-page White Paper reiterates the government’s 12 priorities in leaving the EU already outlined by the prime minister.

“The White Paper makes clear that we expect to bring forward separate legislation in areas such as customs and immigration delivering a smooth, mutually beneficial exit. Avoiding a disruptive cliff-edge will be key,” the Brexit minister David Davis told the Commons, referring to the danger of a potentially chaotic exit from the EU with no deal at the end of negotiations.

Several opposition politicians accused the government of keeping parliament in the dark over its plans – a charge to which Theresa May has always responded by saying she does not want to give away her negotiating hand.

“For months we’ve been calling for a plan… now there’s a White Paper too late in the day to ask meaningful questions… That is completely unacceptable,” said Keir Starmer, the opposition Labour Party’s Brexit spokesman.

Opinion is divided in parliament over Britain’s future relationship with the EU. Many fear the government’s strategy – seeking a trading relationship outside the single market – endangers the economy.

“This is a mess. It’s a bourach,” Stephen Gethins of the Scottish National Party (SNP) told the Commons, using a Scottish slang word meaning a mess or state of confusion. “It’s going to have an impact on each and every one of us and people deserve better.”

Theresa May wants to launch the formal talks process with the EU by the end of March.

Her office and the White Paper hint at pushing for a phased implementation, allowing firms time to adapt to life outside the EU.

This has been welcomed by the financial industry. But the government is still accused of being vague, not least over the kind of access it seeks to the single market.

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