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'Brexit's most significant moment since the referendum'

'Brexit's most significant moment since the referendum'
By Catherine Hardy with Reuters
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The UK government is to publish a White Paper outlining what it wants from Brussels


The UK is to publish a Brexit position paper before a crucial EU summit in June.

Officials say the document is likely to outline proposals for future customs arrangements and for specific sectors including financial services, agriculture and cars.

It may also outline positions on:

  • future dispute settlement
  • cooperation with EU bodies
  • the security partnership
  • law enforcement
  • defence and foreign policy.

Brexit minister David Davis told his cabinet colleagues on Tuesday that the document will be the most significant publication on relations with the EU since the 2016 referendum when Britons voted to leave the bloc.

What is a White Paper?

A policy document produced by the government that sets out proposals for future legislation. They are regarded as significant.

Why are they publishing one now?

To help calm the fears of business leaders. They have complained that they have very little idea what the UK's negotiating priorities are, almost two years after the Brexit referendum.

In March, Theresa May set out the broad aims of Britain's plan for its future relationship with the EU. However, a number of questions remain, including how far different sectors of the community will diverge from the bloc's rules.

Customs flashpoint

Theresa May's decision to leave the EU's customs union has become one of the main flashpoints in the Brexit debate. She is struggling to build a consensus around one of the two customs options.

So the UK Cabinet is in total agreement on Brexit, then?

Not at all. Theresa May is struggling to overcome deep divisions in her government over the country's break with Brussels. They are particularly divided over the customs union proposal.

May's Brexit cabinet committee failed again on Tuesday to decide a customs plan. Officials did say ministers agreed that big decisions have to be taken soon.

June deadline

The document, expected to extend to more than 100 pages, will be published before a summit of EU leaders on June the 28th and 29th.

It will follow repeated complaints from EU officials that Britain has not been clear on what it wants. Brexit talks have all but stalled in recent weeks.

There are doubts in Brussels about whether the bloc and London will be able to mark a milestone in the negotiations at the EU summit.


The current schedule sets progress for the talks in June as an important step towards a final Brexit deal in October.

This leaves enough time for an elaborate EU ratification process before Britain is expected to leave the bloc in March next year.

What they are saying

The White Paper is "an opportunity to set out clearly to both a domestic and an EU audience the reasoning behind our approach," - Brexit Secretary David Davis. The document will "include detailed, ambitious and precise explanations of our should set out what will change and what will feel different outside the EU."

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